The impact of gestational stress and prenatal growth on emotional problems in offspring: a review

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Abstract

Objective

Events occurring very early in life, even prenatally, may have long-term effects on future health and behaviour. The influence of poor foetal growth and gestational stress in the mother on the risk of emotional problems in offspring was reviewed.

Method

A selective review of the literature was undertaken.

Results

Studies of preterm infants and infants born small for gestational age have shown increased levels of emotional problems across the lifespan. In general, studies examining maternal depression/anxiety during pregnancy and other indices of gestational stress have shown significant associations with emotional problems in children. The results of several studies also point to the importance of psychosocial and genetic factors in moderating associations.

Conclusion

Future research that focuses on identifying the mechanisms underlying these associations is needed. The moderating role of psychosocial and genetic risk factors is an important area in which future research should be directed. These findings have clinical implications for the provision of antenatal care.

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