Pregnancy stress may lead to sickly children
Self-perceived stress during pregnancy exacerbates the risk of infectious and non-infectious disease in the offspring, a recent study has found.
Drawing from a low-income and racially/ethnically diverse population, the researchers enrolled 109 overweight pregnant women (mean age, 27.89±5.61 years). The Cohen Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) was used to retrospectively assess perceived stress at two points during pregnancy and at 6 months postpartum. Medical records for the infants were then reviewed to evaluate illnesses developed.
Negative binomial regression models found that perceived stress during pregnancy correlated to all three offspring illness outcomes: infectious and non-infectious diseases, and illness diversity.
For example, a 1-point increase in average prenatal stress led to a 38-percent jump in the number of infections (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 1.38, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.01–1.88; p<0.05). This seemed to be driven more by stress in late pregnancy, during which a 1-point increment in self-reported stress increased offspring infection risk by 55 percent (IRR, 1.55, 95 percent CI, 1.18–2.03; p<0.01).
The effect of stress was even stronger for non-infectious illnesses, raising its risk by 73 percent for each point increase in total prenatal stress scores (IRR, 1.73, 95 percent CI, 1.34–2.23; p<0.01) and by 83 percent when using late-pregnancy scores (IRR, 1.83, 95 percent CI, 1.43–2.35; p<0.01).
A similar pattern was reported for illness diversity: total prenatal (IRR, 1.53, 95 percent CI, 1.25–1.88; p<0.01) and late-pregnancy (IRR, 1.60, 95 percent CI, 1.32–1.93; p<0.01) stress.
On the other hand, the absolute number of stressful life events did not correlate with any of the offspring illness outcomes, either alone or after adjustments for perceived stress.