Home Health & Wellness Stress and Depression During Pregnancy Significantly Alter Gut Microbiota, New Study Suggests

Stress and Depression During Pregnancy Significantly Alter Gut Microbiota, New Study Suggests

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A recent study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health has provided fresh insights into how stress and depression during pregnancy can influence gut microbiota. The pilot study, conducted by researchers from The Ohio State University, explored the complex interplay between psychosocial stress, depressive symptoms, and the gut microbiome in pregnant individuals.

The study aimed to fill gaps in existing research by conducting a comprehensive analysis across different stages of pregnancy and postpartum. This approach provided a longitudinal perspective on how psychological factors could affect maternal and fetal health through microbiota alterations.

The research involved a prospective cohort study of pregnant individuals, who were assessed for stress and depression using the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Samples of fecal and vaginal microbiota were collected at multiple time points during pregnancy and postpartum.

The study’s robust methodology included full-length 16S rRNA sequencing to determine the composition of microbial communities. This allowed the researchers to analyse both alpha diversity (within-sample diversity) and beta diversity (between-sample diversity) metrics, as well as taxonomic abundance.

One of the most significant findings was that early pregnancy stress was associated with an increased abundance of certain fecal taxa not previously identified in related studies. This suggests that stress during pregnancy can lead to unique changes in the gut microbiome that may not be observed in non-pregnant populations. Additionally, stress from late pregnancy through postpartum was linked to an increased presence of typical vaginal taxa and opportunistic pathogens in the fecal microbiome.

The study also found that maternal stress and depression scores were correlated during late pregnancy. Elevated levels of the chemokine CCL2 were associated with both higher stress and depression scores, highlighting a potential biomarker for psychological distress during pregnancy. At delivery, umbilical cord CCL2 concentration was inversely related to the relative abundance of maternal fecal Lactobacilli, which are beneficial commensal bacteria.

Interestingly, the study noted that participants with more severe depressive symptoms experienced a steeper decrease in prenatal vaginal alpha diversity. This finding underscores the impact of depressive symptoms on the vaginal microbiome, suggesting a specific biological pathway for depression that is distinct from the effects of stress.

These findings add to the growing body of evidence linking maternal psychological well-being to microbiome composition. They suggest that stress and depression during pregnancy can lead to distinct alterations in the gut microbiome, which may have implications for both maternal and fetal health. The study’s authors call for further research to explore the functional and metabolic profiles of these microbial communities and to investigate the role of specific microbial taxa in mediating the effects of stress and depression.

The study’s limitations include its relatively small sample size and the exclusion of participants with certain health conditions or those who required an interpreter. The researchers also noted the potential confounding effect of diet, which was not statistically controlled in the analyses. Future studies should aim to include larger, more diverse populations and consider additional factors such as dietary intake, physical activity, and coping resources.

The impact of the Covid pandemic on the study was another significant factor, as it affected participant recruitment and data collection processes. Despite these challenges, the study provides a valuable foundation for understanding the complex relationships between psychological factors and microbiome composition during pregnancy.

© Copyright 2014–2034 Psychreg Ltd