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This review article presents evidence for prenatal biochemical communication involving the mother, the placenta, and the prenate, and calls for prenatal intervention for at-risk dyads. The concept of prenatal biochemical communication is based on the view that the develoment of the self starts prenatally and is continuous and incremental. The study of prenatal programming has led to an understanding that the prenate and mother reciprocally influence each other via the placenta, which also provides many of its own contributions to the biochemistry of pregnancy, and that these effects may have long-range consequences in determining the course of adult health. Recent research has expanded this understanding to include the biochemicals associated with emotions and their transmission between the prenate and the mother, mediated by the placenta. After briefly touching on prenatal stress, which has been extensively studied, the review focuses on recent studies of maternal depression and PTSD. Hyperactivity, which may be a generic marker of prenatal stress response, is also briefly considered. The review concludes with a call for prenatal intervention for at risk mother-prenate dyads.


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JOURNAL OF PRENATAL AND PERINATAL PSYCHOLOGY AND HEALTH publishes research and clinical articles from the cutting edge of the science of prenatal and perinatal psychology and health. The journal, published quarterly since 1986, is dedicated to the in-depth exploration human reproduction and pregnancy and the mental and emotional development of the unborn and newborn child.

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