Mom's Stress Could Affect Junior

Iron deficiency in children linked to stress during first trimester of pregnancy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Feeling stressed out during your pregnancy? A round of yoga or a meeting with your therapist for stress management tips may help your baby too.

An unpublished study being presented at a conference on children's health points to the possibility that first trimester stress for mom might translate to less iron for her baby. Low iron levels could mean slower physical and mental development later.

"Plan ways to relieve stress during your pregnancy."

Rinat Armony-Sivan, PhD, director of the psychology research laboratory at Ashkelon Academic College in Israel, led a study to investigate what impact on the baby a mother's stress levels during pregnancy might have.

The study involved 140 pregnant women who lived in the same area of Israel and would be giving birth at the same hospital, Barzilai Medical Center.

But 63 of the women were in their first trimester during a period of over 600 rocket attacks in that area, stretching from December 2008 to January 2009.

The other 77 women became pregnant about three to four months after the rocket attacks ended.

Only women who were pregnant with a single baby of normal birth weight (between 5.5 and 8.8 lbs) and gave birth at full term without any complications were included in the study.

The researchers surveyed the women a day or two after they gave birth about their background and their health, and the women filled out questionnaires about depression and anxiety. The women also rated their stress levels during their pregnancy.

The researchers then took samples of the newborns' cord blood and measured the iron levels present.

They found that the babies born to mothers whose first trimester corresponded to the rocket attack period had lower levels of iron concentration in their blood than the babies whose mothers were under less stress during the peaceful period.

The researchers concluded, therefore, that babies born to mothers who were stressed during the early part of their pregnancy may be at risk for iron deficiency.

They said it may be worthwhile for children to receive blood work before their first birthday to see if they are at risk for iron deficiency.

"Our findings indicate that infants whose mothers were stressed during pregnancy are a previously unrecognized risk group for iron deficiency," Armony-Sivan said.

"Pregnant women should be aware that their health, nutrition, stress level and state of mind will affect their baby's health and well-being," she said.

The study was presented April 29 at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Boston. Information regarding funding for the study and possible conflicts of interest were unavailable.

The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, which means other scientists have not had a chance to review the methods and data to ensure it passes their quality standards.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 28, 2012
Last Updated:
May 10, 2012