Background: Prenatal diagnosis of congenital heart disease (CHD) is a stressful event that leads to anxiety, depression and traumatic stress in expectant parents. Cortisol is elevated in times of stress, and when present in mothers, crosses the placenta and leads to suppression of the fetus’ own production of cortisol. When those neonates go on to require stressful procedures in the first months of life, some are unable to effectively mount a cortisol mediated stress response which can lead to poor outcomes and even death. We sought to investigate the relationship between maternal stress during pregnancy, and neonatal outcomes. Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of pregnancies complicated by a fetal diagnosis of critical CHD (including transposition of the great arteries, tetralogy of Fallot, total anomalous pulmonary venous return, and coarctation) who were born between 5/1/2019 and 5/1/2021. Maternal data included demographics and medical co-morbidities. Composite maternal prenatal stress score (PSS) was calculated based upon 1) prenatal mental health diagnoses, 2) housing/food insecurity 3) income insecurity, 4) social support/child care, 5) legal involvement, 6) transportation issues and 7) other stressors. Categories ranged from 0 (no concerns) to 3 (significant concerns). Infant charts were reviewed for postnatal, and post-operative outcomes including infection, inotropic support, and exogenous steroid treatment. Results: 41 maternal-fetal dyads met inclusion criteria. Demographic and outcome data are shown in table 1. 63% (26/41) of neonates underwent surgical intervention, with the remainder requiring catheter based intervention at a median of 8 (2-54) days of life. 13 patients had single ventricle anatomy (8 initial surgical palliation, 5 catheterization). Mothers with higher composite PSS were more likely to have infants that required steroids after CHD surgery compared to mothers with lower scores (p=.01) (figure 1). Surgical patients needing bypass were more likely to require post-operative steroids than those not requiring bypass (18/22 vs 0/4, p<.005). None of the catheter-based interventions (including those with high risk single ventricle anatomy) required steroids (p <.0001). Maternal individual stress sub-categories, severity of prenatal CHD diagnosis, and counseling during the COVID-19 era did not correlate with steroid treatment. Finally, PSS did not correlate with individual outcomes such as birthweight, inotropic support, infection or hypoglycemia. Conclusion: Maternal prenatal stress is multifactorial and higher composite maternal prenatal stress scores are correlated with post-bypass steroid requirements, suggesting that a stressful intrauterine environment can be associated with worse post-operative outcomes for the neonate.

Table 1.

Maternal Demographic and Neonatal Outcome Data (41 Dyads)

Maternal Demographic and Neonatal Outcome Data (41 Dyads)
Maternal Demographic and Neonatal Outcome Data (41 Dyads)
Figure 1

Median Prenatal Stress Score versus Steroid Need after Surgery.

Figure 1

Median Prenatal Stress Score versus Steroid Need after Surgery.

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