The psychoneuroimmunology of pregnancy

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2018 Oct;51:25-35. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2017.10.006. Epub 2017 Oct 27.


Pregnancy is associated with a number of significant changes in maternal physiology. Perhaps one of the more notable changes is the significant alteration in immune function that occurs during pregnancy. This change in immune function is necessary to support a successful pregnancy, but also creates a unique period of life during which a female is susceptible to disease and, as we'll speculate here, may also contribute to mental health disorders associated with pregnancy and the postpartum period. Here, we review the known changes in peripheral immune function that occur during pregnancy and the postpartum period, while highlighting the impact of hormones during these times on immune function, brain or neural function, as well as behavior. We also discuss the known and possible impact of pregnancy-induced immune changes on neural function during this time and briefly discuss how these changes might be a risk factor for perinatal anxiety or mood disorders.

Keywords: Hormones; Immune function; Microglia; Mood and anxiety disorders; Peripartum depression; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders* / etiology
  • Anxiety Disorders* / immunology
  • Anxiety Disorders* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders* / etiology
  • Mood Disorders* / immunology
  • Mood Disorders* / metabolism
  • Postpartum Period* / immunology
  • Postpartum Period* / metabolism
  • Pregnancy* / immunology
  • Pregnancy* / metabolism
  • Psychoneuroimmunology*
  • Puerperal Disorders* / immunology
  • Puerperal Disorders* / metabolism