BackgroundSeveral studies about humans and animals have separately examined the effects of prenatal nutrition and stress on fetal development, pregnancy, and birth outcomes, and subsequent child health and disease risk. Although substantial evidence from non-pregnant literature supports the presence of bidirectional interactions between nutrition and stress at various psychological, behavioral, and physiological levels, such interaction effects have not yet been systematically examined in the context of pregnancy.
SummaryThis paper discusses the multifaceted and multilevel relationship between nutrition and stress. It then reviews the currently available observational and experimental evidence in animals and humans regarding the interplay between maternal psychosocial stress, dietary intake, and nutritional state during pregnancy, and implications for maternal and child health-related outcomes. Key Messages: During pregnancy, maternal psychosocial stress, dietary behavior, and nutritional state likely regulate and counter-regulate one another. Emerging evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may attenuate maternal psychosocial stress, and that high maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index exacerbates unhealthy dietary behaviors under high-stress conditions. Longitudinal studies are warranted in order to understand the interplay between prenatal psychosocial stress, diet, and stress- and nutrition-related biomarkers to obtain further insight and inform the development and design of future, more effective intervention trials for improved maternal and child health outcomes.