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Impact of stress in pregnancy

Maternal stress during pregnancy has harmful effects on first and second generation of rat offspring.

Rat mother with pups

Researchers at The Roslin Institute have demonstrated that the effects of maternal stress during pregnancy can be transmitted to both the first and second generation of rat offspring. 

They found that increased anxiety is linked to changes in genes expressed in the part of the brain that regulates emotions such as fear and anxiety.  Previous research suggests that stress during pregnancy is harmful to developing babies’ brains and is linked to a greater risk of mental health disorders. However, until now it was not known that the harmful effects of prenatal stress could affect future generations. 

The findings provide researchers with greater insight into the origins of mood disorders. Understanding the mechanisms that allow the effects of stress to be transmitted to future generations could help researchers find new ways of treating some mental health conditions.

For further information please see our news story.

Original Publication

Grundwald, N & Brunton, P (2015) Prenatal stress programs neuroendocrine stress responses and affective behaviors in second generation rats in a sex-dependent manner. Psychoneuroendocrinology, V 62, pp. 204-216. DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.08.010

Related Publication

Rutherford KM et al. (2014) Prenatal stress produces anxiety prone female offspring and impaired maternal behaviour in the domestic pig. Physiol Behav. 129:255-64