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Lahti-Pulkkinen, Marius; Cudmore, Melissa Jane; Häussner, Eva; Schmitz, Christoph; Pesonen, Anu-Katriina; Hämäläinen, Esa; Villa, Pia M.; Mehtälä, Susanna; Kajantie, Eero; Laivuori, Hannele; Reynolds, Rebecca M.; Frank, Hans-Georg; Raikkonen, Katri (2018): Placental Morphology Is Associated with Maternal Depressive Symptoms during Pregnancy and Toddler Psychiatric Problems. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 8, 791
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Abstract

Maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy predict increased psychiatric problems in children. The underlying biological mechanisms remain unclear. Hence, we examined whether alterations in the morphology of 88 term placentas were associated with maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy and psychiatric problems in 1.9-3.1-years old (Mean = 2.1 years) toddlers. Maternal depressive symptoms were rated biweekly during pregnancy with the Center of Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (n = 86). Toddler psychiatric problems were mother-rated with the Child Behavior Checklist (n = 60). We found that higher maternal depressive symptoms throughout pregnancy [B = -0.24 Standard Deviation (SD) units: 95% Confidence Interval (CI) = -0.46;-0.03: P = 0.03;Mean difference = -0.66 SDs;95% CI = -0.08;-1.23: P = 0.03;between those with and without clinically relevant depressive symptoms] were associated with lower variability in the placental villous barrier thickness of.-smooth muscle actin-negative villi. This placental morphological change predicted higher total (B = -0.34 SDs: 95% CI = -0.60;-0.07: P = 0.01) and internalizing (B = -0.32 SDs: 95% CI = -0.56;-0.08: P = 0.01) psychiatric problems in toddlers. To conclude, our findings suggest that both maternal depressive symptoms during pregnancy and toddler psychiatric problems may be associated with lower variability in the villous membrane thickness of peripheral villi in term placentas. This lower heterogeneity may compromise materno-fetal exchange, suggesting a possible role for altered placental morphology in the fetal programming of mental disorders.