BACKGROUND: Maternal depressive symptoms in pregnancy may affect offspring health through prenatal programming of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The biological mechanisms that explain the associations between maternal prenatal depressive symptoms and offspring HPA axis regulation are not yet clear. This pre-registered investigation examines whether patterns of maternal depressive symptoms in pregnancy are associated with infant cortisol reactivity and whether this association is mediated by changes in placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH). METHOD: A sample of 174 pregnant women completed assessments in early, mid, and late pregnancy that included standardized measures of depressive symptoms and blood samples for pCRH. Infant cortisol reactivity was assessed at 1 and 6 months of age. RESULTS: Greater increases in maternal depressive symptoms in pregnancy were associated with higher cortisol infant cortisol reactivity at 1 and 6 months. Greater increases in maternal depressive symptoms in pregnancy were associated with greater increases in pCRH from early to late pregnancy which in turn were associated with higher infant cortisol reactivity. CONCLUSIONS: Increases in maternal depressive symptoms and pCRH over pregnancy may contribute to higher infant cortisol reactivity. These findings help to elucidate the prenatal biopsychosocial processes contributing to offspring HPA axis regulation early in development.
|Number of pages
|Development and Psychopathology
|Published - 1 Oct. 2023
- HPA axis
- depressive symptoms
- placental corticotropin-releasing hormone