Pregnancy anxiety and comorbid depression and anger: effects on the fetus and neonate

Depress Anxiety. 2003;17(3):140-51. doi: 10.1002/da.10071.


One hundred sixty-six women were classified as experiencing high or low anxiety during the second trimester of pregnancy. The high anxiety women also had high scores on depression and anger scales. In a follow-up across pregnancy, the fetuses of the high anxiety women were noted to be more active and to experience growth delays. The high anxiety mothers' high prenatal norepinephrine and low dopamine levels were followed by their neonates having low dopamine and serotonin levels. The high anxiety mothers' newborns also had greater relative right frontal EEG activation and lower vagal tone. Finally, the newborns of high anxiety mothers spent more time in deep sleep and less time in quiet and active alert states and showed more state changes and less optimal performance on the Brazelton Neonatal Behavior Assessment Scale (motor maturity, autonomic stability and withdrawal). These data highlight the need for prenatal intervention for elevated anxiety symptoms during pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anger*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Dopamine / urine
  • Electrocardiography
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation
  • Heart Rate, Fetal / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / urine
  • Infant Behavior / psychology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Norepinephrine / urine
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis
  • Serotonin / urine
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology
  • Wakefulness / physiology


  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Norepinephrine