Depression in pregnancy (also called ‘antenatal depression’) is being increasingly recognized as a clinically relevant condition that affects obstetric outcome, maternal behaviour and children's future mental health. The present review focuses on the molecular mechanisms operating in utero that underlie the potential effects of antenatal depression on mothers’ and children's behaviour. In particular, I discuss evidence, coming largely from animal and cellular studies, that activation of the main hormonal stress-response system, the HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) axis, in mothers who are depressed during pregnancy may affect maternal care as well as offspring's behaviour and future psychopathology. The evidence summarized in the present review supports the notion that preventing or treating depression in pregnancy will alleviate not only the suffering of mothers, but also the suffering of the next generation.

You do not currently have access to this content.