Research Links Low Birth Weight to Poverty, Stress

If you’re pregnant and stressing about bills, STOP! It could cause you to have a smaller baby!

Newborn holding fingerWe all know motherhood is known for being stressful, but a recent Ohio study points specifically to the worries of lower-income moms-to-be and how those worries might contribute to poor birth outcomes.

Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center assessed financial strain, depressive symptoms, anxiety, and pregnancy-specific stress among 138 pregnant women.

Researchers then reviewed the surveys after the babies were born.

The lead author in the research, Amanda Mitchell told the Ohio News Connection prior studies have shown a greater risk of low birth weights among socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers.

“Taking care of a newborn infant, or what would happen during labor and delivery, or how the infant might change their life – that particular type of distress was kind of the reason that greater financial stress in pregnant women was associated with delivering babies of lower birth weight.”

Mitchell went on to say some pregnant women find ways to work through stress via coping strategies like breathing exercises. However; she noted any women experiencing a stressful pregnancy should talk to their OBGYN or another medical expert.

“The hope is that psychological interventions that address pregnancy-specific concerns would actually help reduce the effects of financial stress on birth weight. So, if we can support women in those worries, we might actually help reduce the effect that financial stress has on birth weight.”

According to the Ohio News Connection, babies born below five pounds, eight ounces are defined as low-birth-weight and can suffer from serious health problems and spend their first weeks or months in intensive care. More than eight percent of babies born in Ohio are underweight at birth.

Michell added that researchers are also currently studying blood biomarkers that could help explain biological changes linked to low-birth weight.

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