Healthy Babies Before Birth (HB3): 2013-2018

Mechanisms and Effects of Prenatal Maternal Affect on Pregnancy and Infant Development

Funded by NICHD
Joint PIs: Chris Dunkel Schetter, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles &                               Mary Coussons-Read, PhD, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

CoPIs: Calvin Hobel, MD, Cedars Sinai Medical Center & Camille Hoffman, MD, MSCS,            University of Colorado, Denver

CoInv: Elysia Davis, PhD, University of Denver & Michelle Okun, PhD, University of                  Colorado, Colorado Springs

Project Coordinator: Roberta Mancuso, PhD, Regis University   

This project will provide important evidence concerning the relationships between                  antenatal maternal mood disorders, pregnancy-specific stress, and poor pregnancy                outcomes as well as what these relationships mean for infant immunologic and                        neurobehavioral development. The research will test the hypothesis that prenatal                    maternal mood disorders and symptoms increase the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes and compromise infant behavioral and immunological development in the first year of life, and that activation of the HPA axis and increased inflammatory activity in the perinatal          period plays a significant role in these effects.

Additional exploratory analyses concern: (1) the role of vitamin D in the relationships              under investigation, given growing evidence of its involvement in inflammation, mood          disorders, and birth outcome; (2) if and how residence at moderate altitude (5280 feet above sea level) may play a role in these effects; and (3) how prenatal maternal                        biopsychosocial variables may impact maternal mood, stress, and neural-immune status in the postpartum.

Pregnant women between 1 and 12 weeks gestation are being recruited for this project from the Denver Health and Hospital Authority (DHHA) in Denver, CO and from Cedars Sinai Medical Center (CSMC) in Los Angeles (LA), CA. Women undergo three assessments, one per trimester, including interview, biosamples, and ultrasound. Medical charts of prenatal visits and labor and delivery will be abstracted. Mothers and infants are assessed at 1, 6, and 12 months after birth by interview, observation, developmental assessments, and biosamples.

Selected Publications

Irwin, J. L., Davis, E. P., Hobel, C., Coussons-Read, M., & Dunkel Schetter, C. Maternal.            prenatal anxiety trajectories and infant developmental outcomes in one-year-old offspring. Infant Behavior and Development, 60, Article 101468. View file:

Ross, K. M., Carroll, J., Horvath, S., Hobel, C. J., Coussons-Read, M. E., Dunkel Schetter, C.  Immune epigenetic age in pregnancy and one year after birth: Associations with weight change. American Journal of Reproductive Immunology,  Article e13229. 10.1111/aji.13229 View file:                                      

Ross, K. M., Carroll, J., Horvath, S., Hobel, C., Coussons-Read, M., & Dunkel Schetter, C. (2020 ). Epigenetic age and pregnancy outcomes: GrimAge Acceleration is associated with shorter gestational length and lower birthweight. Clinical Epigenetics. 12(1) View file:      

Okun, M. L., Mancuso, R. A., Hobel, C., Dunkel Schetter, C., & Coussons-Read, M. (2018). Poor sleep quality increases symptoms of depression and anxiety in postpartum women.    Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 41(5), 703-710. View file: