14 Oct The persisting effect of maternal mood in pregnancy on childhood psychopathology
Prenatal maternal mood has a direct and persisting effect on her child’s psychiatric symptoms
Developmental or fetal programming has emerged as a major model for understanding the early and persisting effects of prenatal exposures on the health and development of the child and adult.
We leverage the power of a 14-year prospective study to examine the persisting effects of prenatal anxiety, a key candidate in the developmental programming model, on symptoms of behavioral and emotional problems across five occasions of measurement from age 4 to 13 years.
The study is based on the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children cohort, a prospective, longitudinal study of a large community sample in the west of England (n 1⁄4 7,944). Potential confounders included psychosocial and obstetric risk, postnatal maternal mood, paternal pre- and postnatal mood, and parenting.
Results indicated that maternal prenatal anxiety predicted persistently higher behavioral and emotional symptoms across childhood with no diminishment of effect into adolescence. Elevated prenatal anxiety (top 15%) was associated with a twofold increase in risk of a probable child mental disorder, 12.31% compared with 6.83%, after allowing for confounders.
Results were similar with prenatal depression. These analyses provide some of the strongest evidence to date that prenatal maternal mood has a direct and persisting effect on her child’s psychiatric symptoms and support an in utero programming hypothesis.
Developmental or adaptive programming, including in the fetal period, has emerged as a major model for understanding the developmental origins of health outcomes. The model proposes that in utero exposures instigate an adaptive re-sponse in the organism that is carried forward in development with persisting effects on behavior and biology.
Much of this work focuses on poor nutrition or an index of poor growth (e.g., low birth weight) as the causal factor, although other and additional sources of stress with causal effects may be operating (Barker, 1999; Gluckman & Hanson, 2004; Painter, Roseboom, & Bleker, 2005; Wadhwa, Buss, Entringer, & Swanson, 2009).
“The persisting effect of maternal mood in pregnancy on childhood psychopathology”
Kieran J. O’DONNELL, Vivette GLOVER, Edward D. BARKER, and Thomas G. O’CONNORd
McGill University; Imperial College London; Birkbeck University and dUniversity of Rochester Medical Center
From Cambridge University Press 2014
Development and Psychopathology 26