A recent new meta-analysis published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology suggests that prenatal stress in women may be associated with an increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in their offspring.
Researchers at the University College Cork, Ireland conducted a meta-analysis of 15 studies for ASD (11 case-control and four cohort) and 12 studies for ADHD (seven case-control and five cohort) identified through a literature search on the PubMed, PsycINFO, Web of Science, EMBASE and SCOPUS databases.
An analysis of eight studies (adjusted for nine estimates) showed a significant association between prenatal stress and an increased risk for ASD (OR, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.15-2.34; I2=90%). Similarly, in an analysis of seven studies (adjusted for eight estimates), prenatal stress was also associated with an increased risk for ADHD (OR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.27-2.34; I2=85%).
The authors warn that it is difficult to draw robust conclusions from these findings owing to several limitations in the reviewed literature. They added: "The focus of future research should be on conducting robust and well-designed longitudinal epidemiological studies addressing the limitations in the current literature."