Born small, stress in pregnancy ups health risk in women

Sydney: Women who were born with a lower birth weight and also experienced a stressful pregnancy are likely to be at an increased risk of developing long-term health problems, finds a new study.

The research explored what low maternal birth weight and exposure to stress could mean to the health of a mother post pregnancy.

“The study found that stress and low birth weight can independently affect cardiovascular, kidney, adrenal and metabolic health of mothers long after the pregnancy,” said lead author Jean Ni Cheong, doctoral student at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

However, having both risk factors did not lead to more severe outcomes, the researchers said.

For the study, published in the Journal of Physiology, the team used a rat model where restricting oxygen, nutrient and blood supply during pregnancy led to offspring being born with a low birth weight.

When the low birth weight female rats subsequently became pregnant, researchers induced stress through common measurements performed during human pregnancy.

After the delivery, they studied parameters in the mothers including blood pressure, renal function, stress hormone production and metabolic function.

“By identifying individuals at higher risk of developing complications during pregnancy and therefore long-term diseases, appropriate interventions can be implemented to improve outcomes,” Cheong added.