Association between Psychosocial Stress and Fecal Microbiota in Pregnant Women

C. Hechler*, K. Borewicz, R. Beijers, E. Saccenti, M. Riksen-Walraven, H. Smidt, C. de Weerth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Maternal prenatal psychosocial stress is associated with altered child emotional and behavioral development. One potential underlying mechanism is that prenatal psychosocial stress affects child outcomes via the mother's, and in turn the child's, intestinal microbiota. This study investigates the first step of this mechanism: the relation between psychosocial stress and fecal microbiota in pregnant mothers. Mothers (N = 70) provided a late pregnancy stool sample and filled in questionnaires on general and pregnancy-specific stress and anxiety. Bacterial DNA was extracted and analysed by Illumina HiSeq sequencing of PCR-amplified 16 S ribosomal RNA gene fragments. Associations between maternal general anxiety and microbial composition were found. No associations between the other measured psychosocial stress variables and the relative abundance of microbial groups were detected. This study shows associations between maternal pregnancy general anxiety and microbial composition, providing first evidence of a mechanism through which psychological symptoms in pregnancy may affect the offspring.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4463
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2019


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