Exposure to prenatal stress has been reported to affect the risk of adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in the offspring; however, there is currently no clear consensus. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to examine the existing literature on the association between prenatal stress and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the offspring.
Based on a registered protocol, we searched several electronic databases for articles in accordance with a detailed search strategy. We performed this study following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA).
Prenatal stress was significantly associated with an increased risk of both ASD (pooled OR 1.64 [95% CI 1.15-2.34]; I2 = 90%; 15 articles) and ADHD (pooled OR 1.72 [95% CI 1.27-2.34]; I2 = 85%; 12 articles).
This study suggests that prenatal stress may be associated with ASD and ADHD; however, several limitations in the reviewed literature should be noted including significant heterogeneity and there is a need for carefully controlled future studies in this area.