Stress In Utero + Altered Behaviour in Offspring
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, fetal exposure to high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol have been shown to play a role.
Alerted or increased levels of circulating cortisol during pregnancy and or changes in placental methylation which result in increased fetal exposure to cortisol contribute to the altered activity of the stress response of the child.