Maternal stress-induced reduction in birth weight as a marker for adult affective state

Daniel L A van den Hove, Gunter Kenis, Harry W M Steinbusch, Carlos E Blanco, Jos Prickaerts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is known that adverse events experienced by a pregnant woman may be reflected upon the developing fetus and adversely affect its mental wellbeing in later life. In a recent study by our group, prenatal stress was associated with a clear increase in anxiety- and depression-related behavior in male, but not female Sprague-Dawley offspring. Since birth weight data were recorded we were able to determine whether birth weight, as an important outcome measure of fetal distress, may be used as a predictive indicator for adult performance. For this purpose, a correlation analysis was performed, aimed at studying the possible link between stress-induced fetal growth restriction and adult affective state. Male birth weight correlated positively to depression-related behavior in the forced swim test. Furthermore, it weight was correlated negatively to basal, and positively to stress-induced, plasma corticosterone levels in adulthood. Female birth weight did not correlate to any of the studied outcome measures. These data suggest that male birth weight may represent a valuable indicative marker for variations in adult affective state with a developmental origin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-46
Number of pages4
JournalFrontiers in Bioscience, Elite edition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Birth Weight
  • Corticosterone
  • Female
  • Fetal Distress
  • Male
  • Mood Disorders
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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