Study: Stress about money affects the health of your baby

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A new baby’s impact on your family budget can be a point of stress for everyone, especially the mom-to-be. But a new study shows even the new arrival is impacted by this anxiety.

Researchers found pregnancy-related anxiety was one reason women with financial stress delivered babies of lower birth weight.

Amanda Mitchell, PhD, is the lead author of the study and a researcher at The Ohio State University Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. She says pregnant women were asked about their current financial strain. For example, how difficult would it be for you to afford things like medical care, housing and other expenses?

“We found that the more stress a woman reported, the greater the likelihood that she would have a baby of low birth weight,” Dr. Mitchell says.

Does this affect only those in poverty?

No - researchers found that the level of financial strain was not dependent on income. In fact, high stress levels were evident across all income levels.

“It wasn’t just how much money someone had available that was driving this effect. It was actually the perception of her ability to meet expenses,” says Lisa Christian, PhD, principal investigator of the study.

Why is low birth weight a concern?

Babies of low birth weights are more susceptible to a lifetime of health problems, including respiratory and digestive issues, as well as a higher risk of obesity and heart disease later in life. Low birth rate is a term used to describe babies who are born weighing less than about 5 pounds, 8 ounces. In contrast, the average newborn weighs about 8 pounds.

What can you do if feeling stressed?

Experts recommend finding ways to cope with stress during pregnancy to help reduce the risk to your baby.

“There is no reason to worry about things that are out of your control,” explains Christian.

She suggests creating a financial plan, asking friends and family for help, and speaking with a psychiatrist. Exercise can also reduce your feelings of anxiety.

“It is normal to feel financial strain during pregnancy – and there is a wealth of resources available to help.” 

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