Sex Differences in Vulnerability to Prenatal Stress: a Review of the Recent Literature

Susanna Sutherland, Steven M. Brunwasser

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: To evaluate the degree to which recent studies provide evidence that the effects of prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) on child health outcomes vary depending on the child’s biological sex. In this review, we used a broad definition of stress, including negative life events, psychological stress, and established stress biomarkers. We identified 50 peer-reviewed articles (published January 2015–December 2017) meeting the inclusion criteria. Recent Findings: Most articles (k = 35) found evidence of either sex-specific associations (significant in one sex but not the other) or significant PNMSxstress interactions for at least one child health outcome. Evidence for sex-dependent effects was strongest in the group of studies evaluating child neural/nervous system development and temperament as outcomes. Summary: There is sufficient evidence of sex-dependent associations to recommend that researchers always consider the potential role of child sex in PNMS programming studies and report descriptive statistics for study outcomes stratified by child biological sex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102
JournalCurrent Psychiatry Reports
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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