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: 4.31). 01/2005; 1032:234-6. DOI: 10.1196/annals.1314.028
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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.

Download full-text


Available from: Paul M Plotsky, Mar 31, 2014
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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; DOI:10.1007/s00737-014-0467-y · 1.96 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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