University of Oulu

Verner, G., Epel, E., Lahti-Pulkkinen, M., Kajantie, E., Buss, C., Lin, J., Blackburn, E., Räikkönen, K., Wadhwa, P. D., & Entringer, S. (2021). Maternal Psychological Resilience During Pregnancy and Newborn Telomere Length: A Prospective Study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 178(2), 183–192.

Maternal psychological resilience during pregnancy and newborn telomere length : a prospective study

Saved in:
Author: Verner, Glenn1; Epel, Elissa2; Lahti-Pulkkinen, Marius3;
Organizations: 1Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, corporate member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), Institute of Medical Psychology, Berlin, Germany
2Department of Psychiatry, San Francisco School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
3Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, Finland
4Department of Public Health Solutions, THL National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki and Oulu, Finland
5PEDEGO Research Unit, MRC Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
6Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
7Children’s Hospital, Helsinki University Hospital and University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
8Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California
9UC Irvine Development, Health and Disease Research Program, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California
10Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
11Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
12Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, California, USA
13Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, California, USA
14Department of Epidemiology, University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, Irvine, California, USA
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: American Psychiatric Association, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-09-11


Objective: In the context of the importance of elucidating the determinants of the initial, newborn setting of telomere length (TL), it is increasingly evident that maternal stress and stress-related processes during pregnancy play a major role. Although psychological resilience may function as a buffer, research in this area has not yet examined its potential role vis-à-vis that of stress. The authors examined the relationship between maternal psychological resilience during pregnancy and newborn TL.

Methods: In a sample of 656 mother-child dyads from the Prediction and Prevention of Preeclampsia and Intrauterine Growth Restriction cohort, multiple serial assessments were conducted over the course of pregnancy to quantify maternal stress, negative and positive emotional responses to pregnancy events, positive affect, and perceived social support. Principal component analysis identified two latent factors: stress and positivity. A measure of resilience was computed by regressing the positivity factor on the stress factor, in order to quantify positivity after accounting for stress. TL was measured using quantitative polymerase chain reaction in leukocytes extracted from cord blood shortly after birth. Linear regression was used to predict newborn TL from maternal resilience during pregnancy, adjusting for other potential determinants.

Results: Maternal stress significantly predicted shorter newborn TL (β=−0.079), and positivity significantly predicted longer TL (β=0.135). Maternal resilience (positivity accounting for stress) was significantly and positively associated with newborn TL (β=0.114, 95% CI=0.035, 0.189), with each standard deviation increase in resilience predicting 12% longer newborn TL.

Conclusions: The results indicate that maternal psychological resilience may exert a salubrious effect on offspring telomere biology and highlight the importance of enhancing maternal mental health and well-being during pregnancy.

see all

Series: American journal of psychiatry
ISSN: 0002-953X
ISSN-E: 1535-7228
ISSN-L: 0002-953X
Volume: 178
Issue: 2
Pages: 183 - 192
DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.19101003
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3123 Gynaecology and paediatrics
Funding: Supported by NIH grant AG-050455 and by European Research Councilgrant 678073. Dr. Kajantie has received grants from the European Commission (RECAP733280), Norface DIAL, the Academy of Finland, the Foundation for Pe-diatric Research, the Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, the NovoNordisk Foundation, and the Sigrid Jusélius Foundation. Dr. Lin is a co-founder of and stockholder in Telomere Diagnostics.
Copyright information: © 2020 American Psychiatric Association. The final authenticated version is available online at