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International Journal of PeptidesVolume 2011 2011, Article ID 837596, 9 pages

Review Article

Women and Children-s Health and Well-Being Project, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of California, Orange, CA 92868, USA

Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Irvine, Orange, CA 92868, USA

Crean School of Health and Life Sciences, Chapman University, Orange, CA 92866, USA

Received 15 January 2011; Accepted 10 February 2011

Academic Editor: Didier Vieau

Copyright © 2011 Curt A. Sandman et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The human placenta expresses the genes for proopiomelanocortin and the major stress hormone, corticotropin-releasing hormone CRH, profoundly altering the “fight or flight” stress system in mother and fetus. As pregnancy progresses, the levels of these stress hormones, including maternal cortisol, increase dramatically. These endocrine changes are important for fetal maturation, but if the levels are altered e.g., in response to stress, they influence program the fetal nervous system with long-term consequences. The evidence indicates that fetal exposure to elevated levels of stress hormones i delays fetal nervous system maturation, ii restricts the neuromuscular development and alters the stress response of the neonate, iii impairs mental development and increases fearful behavior in the infant, and iv may result in diminished gray matter volume in children. The studies reviewed indicate that fetal exposure to stress peptides and hormones exerts profound programming influences on the nervous system and may increase the risk for emotional and cognitive impairment.

Autor: Curt A. Sandman, Elysia P. Davis, Claudia Buss, and Laura M. Glynn



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