Pregnancy, Stress, and Depression: Impact on the Developing Fetal Brain


Theme One: The Pregnant Woman

  • The global impact of pregnancy-related mental health disorders: No longer a silent epidemic

  • The phenotypic spectrum of maternal mood disorders during and after pregnancy

  • What is it about pregnancy that makes women so vulnerable to mental health disturbances?

  • The treatment dilemma: Serotonin and SSRI’s

Theme Two: The Fetus and Placenta

  • What are the pathways by which maternal mental health influence fetal brain development?

    • Endocrine pathways

    • Epigenetic mechanisms

  • Does the placenta have any influence on the transduction of maternal mood disorders to altered fetal neurodevelopment?

Theme Three: The Newborn and Beyond

  • Postpartum depression and its impact on the mother-baby dyad

  • The stress of neonatal intensive care: Strategies to nurture mother-baby attachment

  • Psychosocial stress and the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage

  • What is the evidence for lifespan neuropsychological risk in the offspring of pregnancies complicated by maternal mental health disorders?

Theme Four: Putting the Pieces Together: Leveraging Technology and Universal Screening

  • What insights can we glean from in vivo MRI studies on the impact of maternal stress on fetal brain development and placental function?

  • Does fetal exposure to maternal stress alter postnatal brain structure, function, and increase vulnerability to childhood affective disorders?

  • Is it time for routine screening for perinatal mental health disorders in obstetrics and pediatrics?

Theme Five: The Road Ahead - An Expert Panel Discussion

  • How do we engage policymakers and advocacy groups to focus on this enormous public health issue?

  • How do we get to universal screening for pregnancy-related mental health disorders?

  • How do we maintain surveillance of at-risk offspring in the community who may have delayed onset of symptoms and missed windows for intervention?