Using a Murine Model of Psychosocial Stress in Pregnancy as a Translationally Relevant Paradigm for Psychiatric Disorders in Mothers and Infants

J Vis Exp. 2021 Jun 13:(172). doi: 10.3791/62464.


The peripartum period is considered a sensitive period where adverse maternal exposures can result in long-term negative consequences for both mother and offspring, including the development of neuropsychiatric disorders. Risk factors linked to the emergence of affective dysregulation in the maternal-infant dyad have been extensively studied. Exposure to psychosocial stress during pregnancy has consistently emerged as one of the strongest predictors. Several rodent models have been created to explore this association; however, these models rely on the use of physical stressors or a limited number of psychosocial stressors presented in a repetitive fashion, which do not accurately capture the type, intensity, and frequency of stressors experienced by women. To overcome these limitations, a chronic psychosocial stress (CGS) paradigm was generated that employs various psychosocial insults of different intensity presented in an unpredictable fashion. The manuscript describes this novel CGS paradigm where pregnant female mice, from gestational day 6.5 to 17.5, are exposed to various stressors during the day and overnight. Day stressors, two per day separated by a 2 h break, range from exposure to foreign objects or predator odor to frequent changes in bedding, removal of bedding, and cage tilting. Overnight stressors include continuous light exposure, changing cage mates, or wetting bedding. We have previously shown that exposure to CGS results in the development of maternal neuroendocrine and behavioral abnormalities, including increased stress reactivity, the emergence of fragmented maternal care patterns, anhedonia, and anxiety-related behaviors, core features of women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. This CGS model, therefore, becomes a unique tool that can be used to elucidate molecular defects underlying maternal affective dysregulation, as well as trans-placental mechanisms that impact fetal neurodevelopment and result in negative long-term behavioral consequences in the offspring.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / etiology
  • Mice
  • Mothers
  • Placenta
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Stress, Psychological