During pregnancy corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is released into maternal and fetal circulation from the placenta. Elevated concentrations of placental CRH are associated with spontaneous preterm birth, but the consequences for infant development, independent of birth outcome, are unknown. In this study, the effects of placental CRH on infant temperament were examined in a sample of 248 full-term infants. Maternal blood samples were collected at 19, 25 and 31 weeks of gestation for CRH analysis. Infant temperament was assessed with measures of fear and distress at 2 months of age. Infants of mothers with low CRH at 25 weeks of gestation scored lower in fear and distress at 2 months. CRH at 19 and 31 weeks’ gestation was not significantly associated with measures of infant temperament, suggesting the possibility that there is a sensitive period for its effects. These data suggest that prenatal exposure to CRH may exert influences that persist into the postnatal period.

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