Maternal Mood Scores in Mid-Pregnancy are Related to Aspects of Neonatal Immune Function

Document Type

Journal Article




Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science / Centre of Excellence in Alzheimer’s Disease Research




Mattes, E., McCarthy, S., Gong, G., van Eekelen, J. A. M., Dunstan, J., Foster, J., & Prescott, S. L. (2009). Maternal mood scores in mid-pregnancy are related to aspects of neonatal immune function. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 23(3), 380-388. Available here


Background - Although there are recognised associations between psychological and immune function, the effects of maternal depressive symptoms on fetal immune development have not been investigated. Methods - This study examined the relationship between maternal depression scores as assessed by the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) in the second trimester and measure of neonatal immune function measured in cord blood. This study was conducted in a cohort of women (n = 83) who had received either fish oil containing 3.7 g/day n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (n-3PUFA) or a placebo from 20 weeks gestation as part of a randomised controlled trial. Results - At 20 weeks gestation, prior to the intervention, 22% of women in the study manifested mild to moderate depressive symptoms (BDI ⩾10). Neonates of these women had higher lymphoproliferative responses to a range of stimuli (including egg ovalbumin and cat allergen) compared with neonates of women with normal BDI scores (cytokine production including (IL-6 and IL-10) and higher stimulated cytokine responses to both bacterial antigens and allergens. These patterns were evident after allowing for maternal age and education, parity, gestation, infant gender, delivery method and neonatal n-3/n-6 PUFA status. Conclusion - This exploratory study supports the notion that maternal mood in pregnancy may have the potential to influence fetal immune development. Further studies are needed to determine the significance of this.





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