Skip to content

The expectant social mind: A systematic review of face processing during pregnancy and the effect of depression and anxiety

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-171
Number of pages19
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date2 May 2019
DateSubmitted - 28 Nov 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 22 Apr 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 2 May 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jul 2019


Pregnancy carries enormous changes in the psychological and neurophysiological domains. It has been suggested that pregnant women undergo a cognitive reorganization aimed at increasing the salience of social stimuli (i.e., the tendency of social cues to capture observer's attention, so that their processing results prioritized). The goal of the present work was to systematically review the empirical evidence of a change in face processing during pregnancy. Moreover, we explored whether face processing is associated with antenatal depression and anxiety and the extent to which this is part of a potential mechanism to explain detrimental effects of maternal psychopathology on infant outcomes. We identified 19 relevant studies and discussed them based on their methodological qualities. The results of the review suggest that even though it is not possible to draw firm conclusions, pregnancy is likely to be a plasticity window for face processing at the behavioral and neural levels. Evidence confirms the detrimental effect of depression and anxiety on face processing during pregnancy. Clinical implications for parenting interventions are discussed.

    Research areas

  • Anxiety, Brain plasticity, Depression, Face, Parenting, Pregnancy, Processing


View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups