Influence of prenatal maternal stress on umbilical cord blood cytokine levels

Niklas W. Andersson, Qian Li, Carrie W. Mills, Jenny Ly, Yoko Nomura, Jia Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Purpose: Prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) is known to influence fetal programming and development. Thus far, the effects of PNMS on the developing immune system have mainly been documented in animal studies. This study aimed to examine the association between PNMS and immune cytokine profiles in the umbilical cord blood of newborn human infants. Methods: PNMS, including perceived stress, numbers of stressful life events experiences (both partner and health related), and state and trait anxiety, was assessed with five questionnaires and interviews from 43 pregnant women during the second trimester. Seven key cytokines important for immune function, i.e., IL-12, IL-1β, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-α, were analyzed in cord blood by bead-based ELISA method (Luminex 200). Logistic regression was used to estimate the associations of PNMS scores and cytokine levels. Results: Increased levels of IL-1β, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, and IL-8 were significantly associated with at least one of the maternal stress assessments, while the levels of IL-12 and TNF-α were not significantly associated with any of the PNMS measurements examined. Conclusion: These preliminary findings suggest that PNMS may influence cytokine levels in newborn infants, in particular Th2-related cytokines. This report supports previous findings in animal studies and could suggest that newborns born to mothers with elevated PNMS have a predisposition to immune-related disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-767
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Women's Mental Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Cytokines
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Prenatal maternal stress
  • Prospective birth cohort outcomes
  • Stressful life events
  • Umbilical cord blood


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