- Newborns whose mothers are under stress during the first trimester of
pregnancy may be at risk for low iron status, which could lead to
physical and mental delays down the road, according to a study to be
presented Sunday, April 29, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS)
annual meeting in Boston.
Iron plays an important role in the development of organ systems,
especially the brain. Well-known risk factors for poor iron status in
infants are maternal iron deficiency, maternal diabetes, smoking during
pregnancy, preterm birth, low birthweight and multiple pregnancy.
This study, conducted by researchers from Ashkelon Academic College
and Barzilai Medical Center in Israel and the University of Michigan, is
the first in humans to suggest that maternal stress early in pregnancy
is another risk factor for low iron status in newborns.
Researchers, led by Rinat Armony-Sivan, PhD, director of the
psychology research laboratory at Ashkelon Academic College, recruited
pregnant women who were about to give birth at Barzilai Medical Center.
The first group of women (stress group) lived in an area where there
were more than 600 rocket attacks (“Oferet Yetzuka” operation) during
their first trimester of pregnancy. The control group lived in the same
area and became pregnant three to four months after the rocket attacks
Women were questioned briefly at the delivery room reception desk to
determine whether they were healthy and without pregnancy complications.
Eligible women who agreed to participate in the study were interviewed
one or two days after delivery about their background and health during
pregnancy. They also filled out questionnaires about depression and
anxiety, and rated their stress level during pregnancy.
Cord blood was collected from newborns, and serum ferritin (iron) concentrations were measured.
Results showed that the 63 babies whose mothers were in the stress
group had significantly lower cord-blood ferritin concentrations than
the 77 infants in the control group.
“Our findings indicate that infants whose mothers were stressed
during pregnancy are a previously unrecognized risk group for iron
deficiency,” Dr. 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.” Dr. Armony-Sivan concluded that it
may be advisable to consider additional blood work before the well-child
visit at 12 months of age, especially in high-risk populations, so that
iron deficiency, with or without anemia, can be detected early and
treated before it becomes chronic and severe.
View the abstract here “Prenatal Maternal Stress Predicts Lower Cord Ferritin Concentration.
The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS)
are four individual pediatric organizations that co-sponsor the PAS
Annual Meeting – the American Pediatric Society, the Society for
Pediatric Research, the Academic Pediatric Association, and the American
Academy of Pediatrics. Members of these organizations are pediatricians
and other health care providers who are practicing in the research,
academic and clinical arenas. The four sponsoring organizations are
leaders in the advancement of pediatric research and child advocacy
within pediatrics, and all share a common mission of fostering the
health and well-being of children worldwide. For more information, visit
www.pas-meeting.org. Follow news of the PAS meeting on Twitter.