The Impact of Prenatal Stress on the Developing Fetus and Child

  • Lorraine R. Herrenkohl


Organization of the central nervous system (CNS) and dependent behaviors are vulnerable to teratological disturbances during fetal ontogeny. The most characteristically studied agents taken by the pregnant mother have included nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and drugs.1,2 Depending on the kind and quantity of the agent, the range of effects on the offspring has spanned from shorter gestation, smaller birth size, poorer neuromuscular development, slower reflex functioning, and greater placidity to severe life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal, congenital deformity, intellectual retardation, and death. To the list of disruptive prenatal influences must now be added the teratological behavior of maternal stress.3-5 In previous reviews3-5 I have formulated premises and presented evidence that (1) stress affects the developing organism at any stage of life but that (2) prenatal stress has a particularly potent and lasting impact on the developing fetus, when the neural circuitry underlying later biochemical-behavioral events is being laid down.


Female Offspring Fetal Heart Rate Obstetric Complication Prenatal Stress Maternal Stress 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorraine R. Herrenkohl
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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