The psychophysiology of the maternal-fetal relationship

Janet A. DiPietro, Rafael A. Irizarry, Kathleen A. Costigan, Edith D. Gurewitsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The enigmatic quality of the maternal-fetal relationship has been extolled throughout history with little empirical support. We apply time series analysis to data for 137 maternal-fetal pairs collected at 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, and 38 weeks gestation. Maternal heart rate and skin conductance data were digitized in tandem with fetal heart rate and motor activity. No temporal relations between fetal heart rate and either maternal variable were found, although averaged maternal and fetal heart rates were correlated from 32 weeks. Consistent temporal associations between fetal movement and maternal heart rate and skin conductance were detected. Fetal movement stimulated rises in each parameter, peaking at 2 and 3 s, respectively. Associations did not change over gestation, were unaffected by a maternal stressor, and showed within-pair stability. The bidirectional nature of the maternal-fetal relationship is considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-520
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Fetal heart rate
  • Fetal movement
  • Maternal stress
  • Pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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