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AJP CME: April 2017 - Fetal Origins of Mental Health: The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Hypothesis

Activity Type:

  • Journal CME

Release Date: 4/1/2017

Expiration Date: 3/31/2019

  • AMA PRA Category 1 Physician: 1
  • Participation: 1

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Abstract: The quality of fetal growth and development predicts the risk for a range of noncommunicable, chronic illnesses. These observations form the basis of the “developmental origins of health and disease” hypothesis, which suggests that the intrauterine signals that compromise fetal growth also act to “program” tissue differentiation in a manner that predisposes to later illness. Fetal growth also predicts the risk for later psychopathology. These findings parallel studies showing that antenatal maternal emotional well-being likewise predicts the risk for later psychopathology. Taken together, these findings form the basis for integrative models of fetal neurodevelopment, which propose that antenatal maternal adversity operates through the biological pathways associated with fetal growth to program neurodevelopment. The authors review the literature and find little support for such integrated models. Maternal anxiety, depression, and stress all influence neurodevelopment but show modest, weak, or no associations with known stress mediators (e.g., glucocorticoids) or with fetal growth. Rather, compromised fetal development appears to establish a “meta-plastic” state that increases sensitivity to postnatal influences. There also remain serious concerns that observational studies associating either fetal growth or maternal mental health with neurodevelopmental outcomes fail to account for underlying genetic factors. Finally, while the observed relation between fetal growth and adult health has garnered considerable attention, the clinical relevance of these associations remains to be determined. There are both considerable promise and important challenges for future studies of the fetal origins of mental health.


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Educational Objective

The participant will recognize the shared and non-overlapping associations among maternal perinatal mood, altered fetal growth, and aspects of child neurodevelopment, as well as the merits and weaknesses of molecular mechanisms proposed to mediate associations between prenatal adversity and child outcome.

Target Audience

This program is designed for all psychiatrists in clinical practice, residents in Graduate Medical Education programs, medical students interested in psychiatry, and other physicians who wish to advance their current knowledge of clinical medicine.

Estimated Time to Complete

Duration: 1 hour
Begin Date: April 1, 2017
End Date: March 31, 2019

How to Earn Credit

In order to earn CME credit, subscribers should read through the material presented in the article. After reading the article, complete the quiz and submit your evaluation and study hours (up to 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™).  A score of 60% or higher is required to receive credit.


The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The APA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Faculty and Planner Disclosures

Title: Fetal Origins of Mental Health: The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Hypothesis

Authors: Kieran J. O’Donnell, Ph.D., Michael J. Meaney, Ph.D.

Affiliations: From the Sackler Program for Epigenetics and Psychobiology, McGill University, Montreal; the Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics and Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal; and the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Singapore (K.J.O.D., M.J.M.).

Disclosures: The authors report no financial relationships with commercial interests.

Discussion of unapproved or investigational use of products*: No.

*APA policy requires disclosure by CME authors of unapproved or investigational use of products discussed in CME programs. Off-label use of medications by individual physicians is permitted and common. Decisions about off-label use can be guided by scientific literature and clinical experience.

Program Planners

Robert Freedman, M.D. (Editor-in-Chief, AJP); Susan K. Schultz, M.D. (Deputy Editor, AJP); Michael D. Roy (Editorial Director, AJP); Michael A. Pogachar (Online Content Manager, Journals).

Dr. Schultz has received research support from the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study for projects conducted in partnership with Toyama Chemical Company and in partnership with Eli Lilly and Company. Dr. Freedman, Mr. Roy, and Mr. Pogachar report no financial relationships with commercial interests.

Hardware/Software Requirements

This internet-based CME activity is best experienced using Internet Explorer 8+, Mozilla Firefox 3+, Safari 4+. This Web site requires that JavaScript and session cookies be enabled. Certain activities may require additional software to view multimedia, presentation, or printable versions of the content. These activities will be marked as such and will provide links to the required software. That software may be: Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Windows Media Player.
Optimal System Configuration:
  • Flash Player: Adobe Flash Player 10.1+ 
  • Browser: Firefox 3+, Internet Explorer 8.0+, Safari 4.0+, or Google Chrome 7.0+ 
  • Operating System: Windows XP+ or Mac OS X 10.4+ 
  • Internet Connection: 1 Mbps or higher
  • Screen Resolution: 1024 x 768 pixels.

Minimum Requirements:

  • Windows PC:500-MHz Pentium II; Windows XP or higher; 128 MB RAM; Video Card at least 64MB of video memory; Sound Card at least 16-bit; Macromedia Flash Player 10 or higher, audio playback with speakers for programs with video content; Firefox 1.1+, Internet Explorer 7.0+, Safari 1.0+, Google Chrome, or Opera
  • Macintosh: Mac OS X 10.3 or higher with latest updates installed; 1.83MHz Intel Core Duo or faster; RAM: 128MB or more; Video Card: at least 64MB of video memory; Sound Card: at least 16-bit

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