Serotonin and motherhood: From molecules to mood

Jodi L. Pawluski, Ming Li, Joseph S. Lonstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Emerging research points to a valuable role of the monoamine neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the display of maternal behaviors and reproduction-associated plasticity in the maternal brain. Serotonin is also implicated in the pathophysiology of numerous affective disorders and likely plays an important role in the pathophysiology of maternal mental illness. Therefore, the main goals of this review are to detail: (1) how the serotonin system of the female brain changes across pregnancy and postpartum; (2) the role of the central serotonergic system in maternal caregiving and maternal aggression; and (3) how the serotonin system and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications (SSRIs) are involved in the treatment of maternal mental illness. Although there is much work to be done, studying the central serotonin system's multifaceted role in the maternal brain is vital to our understanding of the processes governing matrescence and the maintenance of motherhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100742
JournalFrontiers in Neuroendocrinology
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • 5-HT
  • 5-Hyroxytryptophan
  • Maternal aggression
  • Maternal brain
  • Motherhood
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Parenting
  • Postpartum depression
  • Pregnancy
  • SSRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems


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