Neurobehavioral Consequences of Fetal Exposure to Gestational Stress


Neurobehavioral Consequences of Fetal Exposure to Gestational Stress


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Through intimate communications with the mother, the fetus receives information that is integrated into its neurodevelopmental program to prepare for life after birth. Because the fetal nervous system develops at rapid speed, at precise times and in a specific sequence from conception to birth, disruption in the timing or sequence of development results in tissue remodeling and altered function. Fetal exposures to maternal signals of psychobiological stress are associated with increased risk for behavioral disorders and alterations in brain structures. We have devoted nearly three decades exploring the effects of psychobiological stress in several large cohorts of mothers and their offspring. The focus of this chapter is on the persisting developmental plasticity induced by fetal exposure and adaptation to signals of stress and adversity. Specifically the emphasis is on the emotional, cognitive, and neurological consequences for the newbom, infant, toddler, and child, exposed as fetuses to maternal stress. We review evidence that maternal psychological states and experiences during pregnancy, including stress exposures, mood, fears, and concerns about the course of her pregnancy as well as the level of biological stress signals, exert programming influences on the developing fetus.



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Cham, Switzerland


fetal programming, emotional regulation, cognitive development, HPA axis, neural development, stress, anxiety, depression, cortisol, corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), human pregnancy, child development, developmental origins of health and disease


Family Medicine | Maternal and Child Health | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Psychological Phenomena and Processes


In Nadja Reissman and Barbara S. Kivilesky (Eds.), Fetal Development: Research on Brain and Behavior, Environmental Influences, and Emerging Technologies. Dr. Glynn's chapter begins on page 229.

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Neurobehavioral Consequences of Fetal Exposure to Gestational Stress