Negative Affect in Offspring of Depressed Mothers Is Predicted by Infant Cortisol Levels at 6 Months and Maternal Depression during Pregnancy, but Not Postpartum

Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 4.38). 01/2005; 1032(1):234-6. DOI: 10.1196/annals.1314.028
Source: PubMed


This study tests the hypothesis that maternal depression during pregnancy predicts temperament in offspring aged 6 m to 5 y. Previous studies have shown that maternal depression is related to negative affect and that certain temperament factors, such as negative affect and behavioral inhibition, in children predict affective disorders. Here, maternal depression is divided into depression during pregnancy vs. depression postpartum. Maternal depression was determined by the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) throughout pregnancy and postpartum (prospectively) and by a diagnostic interview (SCID) at 6 months postpartum. The data show that maternal depression during pregnancy, but not postpartum, predicted the ratings of negative affect in the offspring. Importantly, symptoms of depression in the mother (BDI) were used as a control variable in the analyses in order to control for potential bias related to the mother's mood. In addition, cortisol levels in response to a mild stressor at 6 months of age predicted negative affect in infants and toddlers. We conclude that the effects of maternal depression on behavioral problems and vulnerability to mental illness may be mediated by altered temperament and enhanced stress responsiveness.


Available from: Paul M Plotsky, Mar 31, 2014
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    • "The disparate findings on timing may also be attributable to the approach to measurement of NA. Although both Huot et al. (2004) and Davis et al. (2007) measured NA with the Infant Behavior Questionnaire (IBQ) (Rothbart, 1981), Davis et al. (2007) relied on only one of the four subscales (Fear) within the IBQ-derived NA dimension. In an effort to bridge the gap between these two studies, we tested primary hypotheses with the NA dimension of the IBQ-R, but also explored associations with the subscales that comprise that dimension. "
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    ABSTRACT: Accumulating evidence suggests that antenatal depression predicts infants’ negative affectivity, albeit with variable effect sizes. With a prospective longitudinal design, we sought to explain that variability by addressing questions about timing of the depression across pregnancy and the early postpartum, the role of high symptom levels relative to diagnosed depression, comorbidity with anxiety, and the potential mediating role of neuroendocrine functioning. Primiparous women (n = 77) with histories of depression prior to pregnancy were assessed for cortisol levels monthly beginning by mid-pregnancy. Depression symptom levels and diagnostic status were similarly assessed monthly in pregnancy and also until infants reached three months of age, when mothers completed the Infant Behavior Questionnaire-Revised to measure infant negative affectivity. Antenatal depression symptoms and infant negative affectivity were positively associated (r = .39). Controlling for depression symptom levels in other trimesters, only second trimester depression symptoms predicted higher infant negative affectivity (β = .44). With postpartum depression symptom levels in the model, only antenatal depression symptoms predicted infant negative affectivity (β = .45). In the context of depression, neither antenatal anxiety symptoms nor anxiety disorder diagnosis were associated with infant NA scores. The hypothesized role of elevated maternal cortisol as a mechanism for the association between antenatal depression and infant NA was not supported. Our findings contribute to efforts to more precisely identify infants of perinatally depressed mothers who are at greater risk for elevated negative affectivity, suggesting a window of vulnerability in mid pregnancy and the need for further study of potential mechanisms.
    Infant Behavior and Development 11/2014; 37(4). DOI:10.1016/j.infbeh.2014.09.001 · 1.67 Impact Factor
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    • "Infants of mothers with PTSD show overall more levels of distress to novelty and have decreased cortisol levels compared to infants of mothers exposed to trauma during pregnancy who did not develop PTSD (Yehuda et al. 2005). Furthermore, infant cortisol levels have been associated with negative affect in offspring later on as toddlers (Huot et al. 2004). Taken together , these data indicate that psychopathology during pregnancy can affect offspring biology and increase offspring risk for PTSD and depression. "
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    ABSTRACT: While female sex is a robust risk factor for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pregnant women are an understudied population in regards to PTSD symptom expression profiles. Because circulating hormones during pregnancy affect emotionality, we assessed whether pregnant women would have increased expression of the intermediate phenotypes of hyperarousal and fear-potentiated startle (FPS) compared to non-pregnant women. We examined PTSD symptom profiles in pregnant (n = 207) and non-pregnant women (n = 370). In a second study, FPS responses were assessed in 15 pregnant and 24 non-pregnant women. All participants were recruited from the obstetrics and gynecology clinic at a public hospital serving a primarily African-American, low socioeconomic status, inner-city population. Our results indicate that overall PTSD symptoms were not different between the groups of women. However, pregnant women reported being more hypervigilant (p = 0.036) than non-pregnant women. In addition, pregnant women showed increased FPS to a safety signal compared to non-pregnant women (p = 0.024). FPS to a safety signal in pregnant women was significantly correlated with PTSD hyperarousal symptoms (r = 0.731, p < 0.001). Furthermore, discrimination between danger and safety signals was present in non-pregnant women (p = 0.008), but not in pregnant women (p = 0.895). Together, these data suggest that pregnant women show clinical and psychophysiological hyperarousal compared to non-pregnant women, and support screening for PTSD and assessment of PTSD risk in pregnant women.
    Archives of Women s Mental Health 10/2014; 18(4). DOI:10.1007/s00737-014-0467-y · 2.16 Impact Factor
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    • "The issue of whether prenatal SSRI use or the indication for SSRI use is the risk factor remains unresolved. Associations between maternal depression, the chief indicating condition for SSRI use, and developmental psychopathology in children have been reported (Brennan et al. 2000; Caplan et al. 1989; Carter et al. 2001; Deave et al. 2008; Huot et al. 2004). Diagnoses for psychiatric disorders before the birth of the child are more common among parents of children with ASD than parents of children without a diagnosis of ASD, and maternal depression appears to be a greater risk factor than paternal depression (Bolton et al. 1998; Daniels et al. 2008; Rai et al. 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated whether there is an association between increased risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used during pregnancy. This study used Denmark's health and population registers to obtain information regarding prescription drugs, ASD diagnosis, and health and socioeconomic status. There were 1.5 % of cases and 0.7 % of controls exposed to SSRIs during the pregnancy period, and higher effect estimates observed with longer use. We found evidence that in utero exposure to SSRIs increases a child's risk associated with ASD. These results, while adding to the limited knowledge on prenatal pharmacological exposures as potential ASD risk factors, need to be balanced against the benefits of indicated medication use by pregnant mothers.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 05/2014; 44(10). DOI:10.1007/s10803-014-2128-4 · 3.06 Impact Factor
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