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Unread February 19th, 2008, 04:14 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Lightbulb Maternal Origins of Depression?

David Cohen (Stranger in the Nest) was an early exponent of prenatal effects but, for that matter, so was Frank Galton! The debates continue, however, about the extent and timing. I have argued elsewhere, for example, that prenatal changes may account for most of the differences that Frank Sulloway has studied.

JimB


from Journal Watch, 2/15/08

"Anxiety during pregnancy may predispose daughters to depressive symptoms later in life. In animal research, maternal stress during pregnancy has been associated with dysregulation of cortisol rhythms and emotional responses in offspring, possibly due to "reprogramming" of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis during fetal development. This hypothesis has been tested, with mixed results, in cross-sectional, retrospective human studies and in a few prospective studies of prepubertal children. These results remained significant after controlling for confounders, including obstetric outcome, maternal smoking, and birth weight. In these adolescents, there was no evidence of childhood maltreatment, previously associated with adult cortisol dysregulation and depression... The association with a specific antenatal period is consistent with a "fetal reprogramming" process that depends on critical time windows. The sex-specific nature of the finding is novel and worthy of further research. The small sample size, limited cortisol sampling, and inability to evaluate possible genetic effects or gene–environment interactions are limitations that need to be addressed in future studies.
— Peter Roy-Byrne, MD

Published in Journal Watch Psychiatry February 15, 2008

Citation(s):
Van den Bergh BRH et al. Antenatal maternal anxiety is related to HPA-axis dysregulation and self-reported depressive symptoms in adolescence: A prospective study on the fetal origins of depressed mood. Neuropsychopharmacology 2008 Feb; 33:536.

from Medline
"Depressive symptomatology can proceed from altered hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortex (HPA)-axis function. Some authors stress the role that early life stress (ELS) may play in the pathophysiology of depressive symptoms. However, the involvement of the HPA-axis in linking prenatal ELS with depressive symptoms has not been tested in a prospective-longitudinal study extending until after puberty in humans. Therefore, we examined whether antenatal maternal anxiety is associated with disturbances in HPA-axis regulation and whether the HPA-axis dysregulation mediates the association between antenatal maternal anxiety and depressive symptoms in post-pubertal adolescents. As part of a prospective-longitudinal study, we investigated maternal anxiety at 12-22, 23-32, and 32-40 weeks of pregnancy (wp) with the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). In the 14-15-year-old offspring (n=58) HPA-axis function was measured through establishing a saliva cortisol day-time profile. Depressive symptoms were measured with the Children's Depression symptoms Inventory (CDI). Results of regression analyses showed that antenatal exposure to maternal anxiety at 12-22 wp was in both sexes associated with a high, flattened cortisol day-time profile (P=0.0463) which, in female adolescents only, was associated with depressive symptoms (P=0.0077). All effects remained after controlling for maternal smoking, birth weight, obstetrical optimality, maternal postnatal anxiety and puberty phase. Our prospective study demonstrates, for the first time, the involvement of the HPA-axis in the link between antenatal maternal anxiety/prenatal ELS and depressive symptoms for post-pubertal female adolescents.Neuropsychopharmacology (2008) 33, 536-545; doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1301450; published online 16 May 2007."
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