The peripartum period, in all mammalian species, is characterised by numerous adaptations at neuroendocrine, molecular and behavioural levels that prepare the female for the challenges of motherhood. These changes have been well characterised and, while they are necessary to ensure the survival and nurturance of the offspring, there is growing belief that they are also required for maternal mental health. Thus, while increased calmness and attenuated stress responsivity are common characteristics of the peripartum period, it also represents a time of increased susceptibility to mood disorders. While a number of risk factors for these disorders are known, their underlying aetiology remains poorly understood, due at least in part to a lack of appropriate animal models. One translatable risk factor is stress exposure during the peripartum period. In the following review we first describe common peripartum adaptations and the impact postpartum mood disorders have on these. We then discuss the known consequences of peripartum stress exposure on such maternal adaptations that have been described in basic research.

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