Rosana M. Tristão

Rosana M. Tristão

University of Brasilia, Brazil

Title: Maternal stress during pregnancy and its effects over modulation to pain in newborns


Rosana Tristão has PhD in Psychobiology from the University of Brasilia and currently she is a Collaborator Professor and leader of the Centre for Studies in Neurobehavioral Development of the Child and Adolescent at the University of Brasilia, School of Medicine; Vice-President of The International Society for Psychophysics; Affiliated Scientist of the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (CBCD) at Birkbeck, University of London and a Visiting Professor at the Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford, England. She guides projects in sleep and pain in infants, stress, and sensory and perceptual processes in children at risk for developmental disorder.


Modulation to pain after repeated painful procedures is a protective factor in chronic or repeated states of pain and little is known about this ability in newborn infants. Our aim was to observe how maternal stress during pregnancy and present maternal emotional state affects the newborn ability to modulate pain response to repetitive nociceptive stimulation. Mothers were investigated for gestational and present stress, depression/anxiety and ability to parent. The infants underwent four heel lances in 24 hours. Pain scales, VAS and COMFORT Behavior, assessed their response to lances. Physiological stress by salivary cortisol was taken from mothers after delivery and from infants before and after trials. Maternal and infant cortisol was correlated and maternal stress level and their positive beliefs predicted COMFORT scores that decayed significantly in time for infants of more stressed mothers (R2= .22, p= .025). VAS scores didn’t differ over time. We concluded that maternal stress, self-efficacy perception and anxiety were related to infants’ adaptive behavior to pain. These conclusions are supported by previous findings pointing that mild-to-moderate maternal stress can accelerate cognitive function in infants and habituation, but high stress levels can also lead to prolonged stress state and behavioral overreaction.