Maternal stress during pregnancy linked to personality disorder in offspring

  • Brannigan R & al.
  • Br J Psychiatry
  • 6 Sep 2019

  • curated by Sarfaroj Khan
  • UK Clinical Digest
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Takeaway

  • Data from a prospective birth cohort study suggest that offspring exposed to maternal stress during gestation were at an increased risk for personality disorder.
  • The effect of prenatal stress was independent of comorbid psychiatric disorders.

Why this matters

  • Assessing maternal stress and well-being during pregnancy may identify those at greatest risk of developing personality disorder.
  • Findings highlight the importance of prenatal care for good maternal mental health during pregnancy

Study design

  • Data from the Helsinki Temperament Cohort (1 July 1975 to 30 June 1976; n=3626) were evaluated to determine the effect of prenatal stress and childhood temperament on mental health outcomes.
  • Primary outcome: diagnosis of personality disorder.
  • Funding: Health Research Board in Ireland.

Key results

  • The median number of prenatal questionnaires submitted per woman was 6.
  • Overall, 40 individuals were identified with a personality disorder.
  • A high risk of developing a personality disorder was noted in children exposed to maternal stress during gestation vs those unexposed (P<.05>
  • any maternal stress (OR, 2.76; 95% CI, 1.59-4.80);
  • moderate stress (OR, 3.13; 95% CI, 1.42-6.89); and
  • severe stress (OR, 7.06; 95% CI, 2.10-23.81).
  • These associations remained even after adjusting for parental psychiatric history, comorbid psychiatric diagnoses, smoking and antenatal depression (P<.05>
  • any maternal stress (aOR, 3.28; 95% CI, 1.75-6.15);
  • moderate stress (aOR, 3.91; 95% CI, 1.66-9.21); and
  • severe stress (aOR, 9.53; 95% CI, 2.36-38.36).
  • Limitations

    • Self-reported depression symptoms during pregnancy.