Stress and Fetal Brain Development


The current proposal aims to investigate the impact of acute stress on the fetal autonomic nervous system.

Full Title of Study: “The Impact of Stress on Fetal Brain Development”

Study Type

  • Study Type: Observational
  • Study Design
    • Time Perspective: Prospective
  • Study Primary Completion Date: October 1, 2020

Detailed Description

Over the last decades there is growing evidence that increased maternal stress levels lead to an adverse effect on the physiological, metabolic and neuronal development of the fetus during gestation with possible long-lasting effects. Several studies showed that maternal stress also affects fetal endocrine processes during pregnancy and increases the risk for childhood and adult obesity. Thus, the aim of the study is to investigate the effect of acute stress related to the action of the artificial glucocorticoid betamethasone on fetal heart and brain activity. The fetal activity will be measured with biomagnetic sensors.


  • Drug: Betamethason Sodium Phosphate
    • First measurement: 12-36 hours after betamethasone treatment Second measurement: within five days after betamethasone treatment and two weeks Third measurement (neonatal measurement): 1-8 weeks after birh

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • betamethasone treatment

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • fetal and maternal heart rate
    • Time Frame: 8 weeks
    • Measurement by fMEG

Secondary Measures

  • fetal and neonatal brain activity in response to auditory and visual stimuli
    • Time Frame: 8 weeks
    • Measurement by fMEG

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • German speakers (fluently)
  • Gestational age between 28 and 34 weeks
  • Treatment with Betamethasone for improvement of fetal lung function

Exclusion Criteria

  • Smoking (regularly)
  • Alcohol and drug consumption during pregnancy
  • Congenital fetal disorders
  • Women with bed rest
  • acute depression or other psychiatric disorder (self report)

Gender Eligibility: Female

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: N/A

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • University Hospital Tuebingen
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Contact(s)
    • Jan Pauluschke-Fröhlich, MD, 07071 2983111,

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