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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2001 Aug;26(6):565-76.

Repeated morphine administration during pregnancy attenuates maternal behavior.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue Ull 111, Bronx, NY10461, USA.


The present study tested the hypothesis that repeated administration of morphine on days 11-18 of pregnancy alters maternal behavior. Saline- and morphine-treated mothers were observed with their pups in two experiments. Rats were always tested twice a day during the light and dark phases of the reverse light/dark cycle. In Experiment 1, 12 types of activities and three types of nursing positions of mothers were recorded ten times during each 50-minute session for the 23-day lactation period. A decrease in nursing and active maternal behavior, and an increase in self-care, rearing and sniffing was found in morphine-treated mothers. Additionally, both saline- and morphine-treated mothers exhibited significantly more maternal behavior during the light, and non-maternal activities during the dark sessions of each day. Moreover, both saline- and morphine-treated mothers displayed significantly less maternal behavior and more non-maternal activities as postpartum time progressed. In Experiment 2, a different group of mothers was tested for pup retrieval from postnatal days 1 through 12. Morphine-treated mothers were slower than saline-treated mothers in retrieving all pups into the nest. However, there were no differences in latency to carry the first pup and return him/her to the nest. No unusual maternal behaviors were observed during the retrieval tests. Thus, the present study suggests that morphine administration during the second half of pregnancy attenuates some components of maternal behavior and increases non-maternal activities of mothers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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