Parental mental health before and during pregnancy and offspring birth outcomes: A 20-year preconception cohort of maternal and paternal exposure

Elizabeth A Spry, Claire A Wilson, Melissa Middleton, Margarita Moreno-Betancur, Lex W Doyle, Louise M Howard, Anthony J Hannan, Mary E Wlodek, Jeanie Ly Cheong, Lindsey A Hines, Carolyn Coffey, Stephanie Brown, Craig A Olsson, George C Patton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (SciVal)


BACKGROUND: Preterm birth (PTB) and small for gestational age (SGA) are increasingly prevalent, with major consequences for health and development into later life. There is emerging evidence that some risk processes begin before pregnancy. We report on associations between maternal and paternal common mental disorders (CMD) before and during pregnancy and offspring PTB and SGA.

METHODS: 398 women with 609 infants and 267 men with 421 infants were assessed repeatedly for CMD symptoms before pregnancy between age 14 and 29 and during pregnancy. Associations between preconception and antenatal CMD symptoms and offspring gestational age/PTB and size for gestational age/SGA were estimated using linear and Poisson regression.

FINDINGS: In men, persistent preconception CMD across adolescence and young adulthood predicted offspring PTB after adjustment for ethnicity, education, BMI and adolescent substance use (adjusted RR 7·0, 95% CI 1·8,26·8), corresponding to a population attributable fraction of 31% of preterm births. In women, antenatal CMD symptoms predicted offspring PTB (adjusted RR 4·4, 95% CI 1·4,14·1). There was little evidence of associations with SGA.

INTERPRETATION: This first report of an association between paternal preconception mental health and offspring gestational age, while requiring replication in larger samples, complements earlier work on stress in animals, and further strengthens the case for expanding preconception mental health care to both men and women.

FUNDING: National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia), Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Australian Rotary Health, Colonial Foundation, Perpetual Trustees, Financial Markets Foundation for Children (Australia), Royal Children's Hospital Foundation, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Australian Research Council.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100564
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Parental mental health before and during pregnancy and offspring birth outcomes: A 20-year preconception cohort of maternal and paternal exposure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this