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date: 24 May 2018

Abstract and Keywords

The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in research on the effects of environment and behavior on pregnancy and infant development. A key aspect of these efforts has been to examine how prenatal stress affects pregnancy and maternal and child health and to identify candidate mechanisms for these effects. This chapter describes research addressing how prenatal stress can alter the course of pregnancy and affect infant development and the potential role of neural-immune interactions in mediating these effects. Background research in psychoneuroimmunology, discussion of the role of the immune and endocrine systems in normal and complicated pregnancy, and foundational and ongoing research on how neural-immune interactions are involved in stress-related pregnancy outcomes are presented. The chapter concludes by identifying key future directions and ongoing challenges for research in this field with an eye toward affecting clinical practice.

Keywords: pregnancy, stress, cytokines, inflammatory markers, prematurity, infant outcome, HPA axis

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