Behavioral insensitivity to progesterone during lactation in female rats

Ann S. Clark, Edward J. Roy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lactating female rats failed to display sexual receptivity after receiving 50 μg of estradiol benzoate followed by 1 mg of progesterone. Lactating rats appear to be insensitive to progesterone, based on several experiments. In ovariectomized control rats receiving moderate estrogen priming (1 μg EB for 3 days), progesterone greatly facilitated sexual receptivity; similarly estrogen-primed lactating females showed no responsiveness to progesterone injections, even at a high dose of progesterone (10 mg). Consistent with this reduced behavioral responsiveness to progesterone, lactating females had significantly reduced nuclear progestin receptor levels after an injection of 1 mg progesterone compared to ovariectomized controls. On the other hand, both ovariectomized controls and lactating rats responded with high levels of receptivity to 3 days of priming with 10 μg of estradiol benzoate (without progesterone). Lactating females treated for 3 days with a moderate dose (1 μg) of estradiol benzoate showed slightly reduced receptivity compared to ovariectomized controls; this result could reflect a reduced sensitivity to estrogen but is more likely related to the somewhat lower serum levels of estradiol and consequently lower nuclear estrogen receptors in lactating females compared to ovariectomized controls. The possibility of reduced sensitivity to estrogen leading to a reduced sensitivity to progesterone cannot be eliminated (since animals respond to progesterone only after estrogen priming); however, the reported results favor the idea that lactating females are primarily refractory to progesterone and do not have a generalized insensitivity to estrogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-682
Number of pages6
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1985


  • Behavioral insensitivity
  • Lactation
  • Progesterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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