Cytokine profile and maternal depression and anxiety symptoms in mid-pregnancy-the FinnBrain Birth Cohort Study

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2017 Feb;20(1):39-48. doi: 10.1007/s00737-016-0672-y. Epub 2016 Oct 4.


Maternal prenatal psychological symptoms are associated with child health outcomes, e.g., atopic diseases. Altered prenatal functioning of the immune system is a potential mechanism linking maternal symptoms with child health. Research on prenatal distress and cytokines is warranted. The study population comprised consecutive N = 139 women from a general population-based FinnBrain Birth Cohort Study. Standardized questionnaires for depressive, overall anxiety, and pregnancy-related anxiety symptoms were used. Serum concentrations of selected cytokines were analyzed using Multiplex bead arrays from samples drawn at the gestational week 24. The concentrations of T helper (Th)2-related interleukins (IL)-9 and IL-13 and Th1-related IL-12 correlated positively with prenatal depressive and overall anxiety symptom scores (p values, range 0.011-0.029). Higher interferon (IFN)-γ/IL-4 ratio (p = 0.039) and Th2-related IL-5 (p = 0.007) concentration correlated positively with depressive symptoms. Pregnancy-related anxiety score correlated positively with IL-12 (p = 0.041), IL-13 (p = 0.025), and anti-inflammatory IL-10 (p = 0.048) concentrations. IL-6 and TNF-α concentrations were unrelated to prenatal symptoms. As a novel finding, we observed positive correlations between concentrations of potentially proallergenic cytokines and maternal prenatal psychological symptoms. Different symptom measures may yield distinct cytokine responses. This provides hypotheses for studies on mechanisms bridging prenatal stress and child health.

Keywords: Anxiety; Cytokines; Depression; Pregnancy anxiety; Prenatal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / blood
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Depression / blood
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy / blood
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Cytokines
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha