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J Endocrinol. 1984 Mar;100(3):301-6.

Effects of stress administered during pregnancy on reproductive capacity and subsequent development of the offspring of rats: prolonged effects on the litters of a second pregnancy.


The effects of high-anxiety-producing stress administered to rats during pregnancy were studied. The birthweight of offspring of both sexes from the stressed group was found to be significantly lower compared to birthweights of rats, however, were not affected. Mortality rate was significantly higher in the stressed group, although litter size, gestation length and sex ratios were not affected. Mean plasma resting corticosterone levels of the young pups did not differ between the two groups although they rose significantly as they aged in all groups. The offspring of both sexes from stressed mothers responded differently from the controls when subjected to short-term stress (one session) in adulthood. Their increase in plasma corticosterone concentration was significantly below that of the controls. This difference in response was abolished with long-term stress (10 days) when the males, but not the females, had habituated to the stressor. The observed inability to respond adequately to a sudden environmental change suggests a defective emergency response. Lingering effects due to stressing were also found. Male offspring of a second litter, conceived by the original mothers 8 weeks after the discontinuation of stress, had significantly lower birthweights than those of the controls. The subsequent growth rate of neither sex was affected nor was the response to short-term stress.

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