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Rochester Studies of Prenatal Anxiety and Depression

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In 2007, with support from a program grant from the NIMH, we launched a prospective, longitudinal study to examine how psychological and biological factors in pregnancy may shape behavioral, cognitive, biological health of the baby. We followed approximately 200 families from mid-gestation, including detailed assessments of maternal health and behavior and detailed studies of child behavior, parent-child relationships, and child immune health.  Key findings from the study include a) a first demonstration that maternal prenatal anxiety alters the child’s immune system; b) a first demonstration that there are reliable links between child stress physiology and immunology and child temperament.  

To that project was added a parallel study of maternal mental health and immune markers in pregnancy and the early postnatal period. This was the basis of a career development grant to Dr. Emma Robertson-Blackmore. 

Our ongoing work on this project has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Wynne Center for Family Research.

The group of investigators includes Drs. Tom O’Connor, Mary Caserta, and Jan Moynihan, and Emma Robertson-Blackmore.

Representative Publications

Robertson Blackmore, E., Moynihan, J.A., Rubinow, D.R., Pressman, E.K., Gilchrist, M., & O’Connor, T.G. (2011). Psychiatric symptoms and proinflammatory cytokines in pregnancy. Psychosomatic Medicine, 73, 656-663.  PMID 21949424

O'Connor, T.G., Tang, W., Gilchrist, M.A., Moynihan, J.A., Pressman, E.K., Blackmore, E.R. (2014). Diurnal cortisol patterns and psychiatric symptoms in pregnancy: Short-term longitudinal study. Biological Psychology, 96, 35-41. PMID 24239618

O’Connor, T.G., Scheible, K., Sefair, A.V., Gilchrist, M., Blackmore, E.R., Winter, M., Gunnar, M.R., Wyman, C., Carnahan, J., Moynihan, J.A., & Caserta, M.T. (2017). Immune and neuroendocrine correlates of temperament in infancy. Development and Psychopathology, 29, 1589-1600. PMID 29162168

Blackmore, E.R., Putnam, F.W., Rubinow, D.R., Matthieu, M., Hunn, J.E., Putnam, K., Moynihan, J.A., & O'Connor, T.G. (2013). Antecedent trauma exposure and risk of depression in the perinatal period. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 74, e942-948.PMID 24229763

O'Connor, T.G., Winter, M.A., Hunn, J., Carnahan, J., Pressman, E.K., Glover, V., Robertson-Blackmore, E., Moynihan, J.A., Lee, F. E-H, Caserta, M.T. (2013). Prenatal maternal anxiety predicts reduced adaptive immunity in infants. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 32, 21-28. PMID 23439080



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