Prenatal stress potentiates febrile seizure and leads to long-lasting increase in cortisol blood levels in children under 2years old

Epilepsy Behav. 2017 Jul:72:22-27. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2017.04.021. Epub 2017 May 29.


Neurological disorders can be exacerbated in an offspring that is exposed to stress prenatally. This study is aimed to investigate the severity of febrile seizures (FS) in the offspring under 2years old that were prenatally stressed. In this study, 158 children below 2years old with FS were selected. Information about convulsion including seizure lasting, recurrence of seizure, age of the first seizure and type of FS was gathered. Blood samples were obtained from the offspring to measure the cortisol blood levels. Questionnaire was filled in to evaluate the perceived stress and exposure or non-exposure to major stresses during pregnancy. Results of this study showed that both high Perceived Stress Scores (PSS) during pregnancy and exposure to major stresses during pregnancy significantly increased seizure duration and seizure intensity. Also, the appearance of complex FS was significantly higher in prenatally stressed children than the unexposed ones. Further, cortisol blood levels were significantly higher in prenatally stressed subjects. It can be concluded that both higher PSS and/or exposure to major stresses during pregnancy potentiate FS parameters and lead to long lasting increase in cortisol blood levels in the offspring.

Keywords: Cortisol; Febrile seizure; Offspring; Perceived Stress Score; Prenatal stress.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / blood*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology*
  • Seizures, Febrile / etiology*
  • Seizures, Febrile / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*


  • Hydrocortisone