A Nationwide Study on the Risk of Autism After Prenatal Stress Exposure to Maternal Bereavement
ABSTRACT Prenatal stress has been linked to several adverse neurobehavioral outcomes, which may share a common pathophysiology with autism. We aimed to examine whether prenatal stress exposure after maternal bereavement is associated with an increased risk of autism later in life.
We conducted a nationwide population-based cohort study of all 1492709 singletons in Denmark born from 1978 to 2003. A total of 37275 children were born to women who lost a close relative during pregnancy or up to 1 year before pregnancy. These children were included in the exposed group, and the remaining children were in the unexposed group. All children were followed up from birth until their death, migration, onset of autism, or the end of 2006. Information on autism was obtained from the Danish Psychiatric Central Register. We used Cox regression models to estimate hazard ratios in the exposed group compared with those in the unexposed group.
Maternal bereavement during the prenatal period was not associated with an increased risk of autism in the offspring. The hazard ratios did not differ by the nature of the exposure (maternal relationship to the deceased or cause of death). The hazard ratios were comparable between the 5 prenatal exposure periods under study (7-12 months before pregnancy, 0-6 months before pregnancy, first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester).
This is the first population-based cohort study to examine the effect of prenatal stress on autism in childhood. Our data do not support any strong association between prenatal stress after maternal bereavement and the risk of autism.
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ABSTRACT: Research implicates prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) as a risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders; however few studies report PNMS effects on autism risk in offspring. We examined, prospectively, the degree to which objective and subjective elements of PNMS explained variance in autism-like traits among offspring, and tested moderating effects of sex and PNMS timing in utero. Subjects were 89 (46F/43M) children who were in utero during the 1998 Quebec Ice Storm. Soon after the storm, mothers completed questionnaires on objective exposure and subjective distress, and completed the Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ) for their children at age 6½. ASSQ scores were higher among boys than girls. Greater objective and subjective PNMS predicted higher ASSQ independent of potential confounds. An objective-by-subjective interaction suggested that when subjective PNMS was high, objective PNMS had little effect; whereas when subjective PNMS was low, objective PNMS strongly affected ASSQ scores. A timing-by-objective stress interaction suggested objective stress significantly affected ASSQ in first-trimester exposed children, though less so with later exposure. The final regression explained 43% of variance in ASSQ scores; the main effect of sex and the sex-by-PNMS interactions were not significant. Findings may help elucidate neurodevelopmental origins of non-clinical autism-like traits from a dimensional perspective.Psychiatry Research 05/2014; 219(2). DOI:10.1016/j.psychres.2014.04.034
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ABSTRACT: Care for the emotional state of pregnant women remains a neglected aspect of obstetric medicine. Many prospective studies have shown that, if a mother is depressed, anxious, or stressed while pregnant, this increases the risk for her child having a wide range of adverse outcomes, including emotional problems, symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or impaired cognitive development. Although genetics and postnatal care clearly affect these outcomes, evidence for an additional prenatal causal component is substantial. Prenatal anxiety or depression may contribute 10-15% of the attributable load for emotional and behavioural outcomes. The Nurse Family Partnership remains the only intervention that starts in pregnancy and has been shown to have long-term benefits for the behaviour of the child. Several other interventions, however, are likely to be helpful. Depression, anxiety, and stress during pregnancy are frequently undetected by health professionals, and untreated. Programmes to help with this should eventually improve child outcome.Best practice & research. Clinical obstetrics & gynaecology 09/2013; 28(1). DOI:10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2013.08.017
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ABSTRACT: Background. Maternal distress during pregnancy increases the intrauterine level of glucocorticoids, which may have long-term health consequences for the child. Objective. To examine if distress as a combined measure of anxiety, depression, and stress of the mother during pregnancy was associated with offspring childhood overweight at age 7. Methods. We performed a cohort study using prospective data from 37,764 women and child dyads from the Danish National Birth Cohort (1996–2002). At a telephone interview at approximately 30 weeks gestation, the women reported whether they felt anxious, depressed, or stressed. The 95 percentile for body mass index in an international reference defined childhood overweight at any given age. Logistic regression was used for the analyses. Results. The prevalence of overweight children at 7 years of age was 9.9%. Prenatal exposure to maternal distress during pregnancy was not associated with childhood overweight at 7 years of age (adjusted OR 1.06 (95% CI 0.96; 1.18)). In analyses stratified on sex, a small tendency of overweight was seen in boys (OR 1.15 (0.99; 1.33)), but not in girls (OR 0.98 (0.85; 1.13)). Conclusions. Maternal distress during pregnancy appeared to have limited, if any, influence on the risk of overweight in offspring at 7 years of age.Journal of obesity 05/2012; 2012:462845. DOI:10.1155/2012/462845