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Stressing about finances during pregnancy linked to low birth weight

Money-related woes can affect the health of an unborn baby, study suggests

Photo (c) dgmphoto - Fotolia
Raising a kid isn’t cheap. From diapers to daycare, the costs associated with raising a child can amount to a hefty sum -- somewhere in the neighborhood of $13,000 a year per child, according to a recent report.

But worrying about finances while pregnant could have a negative effect on the health of an unborn baby, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center say they've found a link between anxiety over financial stress and babies being born at lower birth weights.

Lower birth weights

To conduct the study, the investigators asked pregnant women questions about how difficult it would be to live on their annual household income and handle baby-related expenses in the coming months.

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

Low birth weight is defined as being below 5 pounds and 8 ounces. Beyond having to spend their first weeks in intensive care, smaller infants may also be more likely to suffer from health problems (including diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity) later in life.

Across all incomes

Financial stress didn’t exclusively affect women in lower income brackets, the study found. Rather, it was a woman’s “perception of her ability to meet her expenses” which triggered money-related stress.

"There is an opportunity here to look for interventions during pregnancy that could help mitigate the effects of financial strain on birth outcomes," Mitchell said in a statement.

Finding ways to cope with stress during pregnancy is critical, she added.

Managing stress

"It's important for all women who experience pregnancy-related stress to seek out help coping with that stress," Mitchell said. "And ob-gyns and other medical providers should also talk about stress during their visits with expecting moms."

The following techniques may help prevent stress from potentially affecting the development of a baby, experts say:

  • Meditate. Moms-to-be can clear their mind of stress by meditating and doing breathing exercises, says Mitchell.
  • Rest. Exhaustion can amplify negative emotions, including stress. Pregnant women should be sure to allow themselves plenty of sleep.
  • Create a budget plan. Expectant couples who are dealing with money-related stress can turn their anxiety into an action plan by setting manageable financial goals.
  • Eat healthy. A well-balanced diet can help reduce stress, as well as help to ensure a baby is getting key nutrients.

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