Mamas-to-be who experience extreme distress during the first trimester of pregnancy may put their babies at risk for iron deficiency.
For the study, researchers in Israel and the US recruited 140 pregnant women who were about to give birth near Ashkelon, Israel. The first group of women lived in an area where there were more than 600 rocket attacks during their first trimester of pregnancy. Another group of moms-to-be lived in the same area, but became pregnant three to four months after the rocket attacks ended.
Researchers collected cord blood and measured iron concentrations in the newborns. Women were interviewed one or two days after delivery about their background and prenatal health; they also filled out questionnaires about depression and anxiety, and rated their stress level during pregnancy. Results showed that the 63 babies whose moms were in the stress group had significantly lower cord-blood iron concentrations than the 77 infants in the no-stress group, placing babies of stressed-out moms at higher risk for problems like iron deficiency anemia.
"Our findings indicate that infants whose mothers were stressed during pregnancy are a previously unrecognized risk group for iron deficiency," says lead researcher Dr. Armony-Sivan. "Pregnant women should be aware that their health, nutrition, stress level, and state of mind will affect their baby's health and well-being."
What researchers don't know is how stress makes iron more difficult to absorb or whether this study comes down to something as basic as women who live in war-stricken or high-stress environments who don't always remember to take their prenatal vitamins. Diabetes and smoking during pregnancy are also risk factors for low-iron levels in newborns.
Are you getting enough iron? Make sure your daily vitamin contains the recommended amount for pregnancy or talk to your doctor about whether iron testing is right for you.