Pregnancy and parturition in all mammals is accompanied with physical, psychological, social, and hormonal shifts that impact the mother physically and psychologically. Pre-weaning piglet mortality continues to be a major welfare and economic issue in U.S. swine production, running at 12–15% with crushing by the sow the major cause. Much research has focused on farrowing environment design, yet the fact that little progress has been made emphasizes that psychosocial factors may impact rates of postpartum disorders (PPD). There is a mismatch between evolved adaptations and contemporary psychosocial and management practices. Many factors associated with the development of PPD in humans are mirrored in sows that perform piglet crushing. These factors include poor mental welfare (anxiety, difficulty coping with stress), a lack of experience, a lack of social support, and individual differences in their sensitivity to hormone concentrations. Understanding what strategies are effective in preventing PPD in humans may have welfare and production benefits for sows—and sows may be a possible model for better understanding PPD in humans.
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