Mechanisms Linking In Utero Stress to Altered Offspring Behaviour.
Development while in the uterus is recognised as a determinate of health in later life and is known as early life programming. Several human studies have shown a link between in utero stressors such as maternal stress, anxiety and depression with adverse behavioural outcomes for the offspring including poorer cognitive function, behavioural stress and emotional problems. While the underlying cause has not been fully elucidated, foetal exposure to high levels of maternal has been shown to play a role.
Dysregulation of the maternal and offspring hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been proposed as a mechanism linking in utero stress with offspring behavioural outcomes Alerted or increased levels of circulating glucocorticoids during pregnancy and or changes in placental methylation which result in increased foetal exposure to cortisol contribute to the altered activity of the stress response of the child.