Impact of maternal psychological distress on fetal weight, prematurity and intrauterine growth retardation

Giuseppe Maina, Paola Saracco, Maria Rosa Giolito, Daniele Danelon, Filippo Bogetto, Tullia Todros
Journal of Affective Disorders 2008, 111 (2-3): 214-20

BACKGROUND: There are conflicting results regarding the association of maternal antenatal distress with preterm birth and low birth weight. This study investigated the association between maternal distress and intrauterine growth abnormality, low birth weight and preterm birth.

METHODS: Three mutually exclusive and homogeneous groups of pregnant women (with actual psychiatric disorder, with maternal psychological distress, and healthy comparisons) underwent fetal ultrasound examinations, uterine and umbilical artery Doppler velocimetry. Infant weight was measured and information collected on obstetrical features and sociodemographic factors.

RESULTS: No differences emerged among the three groups of pregnant women in any ultrasound variables. Antenatal maternal psychiatric disorders and antenatal distress were not associated with an increased risk of preterm birth. Infants of women with psychiatric disorders had lower birth weight and higher percentage of birth weight below the 10th centile for gestational age (30%) than infants of healthy mothers (5%).

LIMITATIONS: These findings are preliminary and warrant further investigation in larger-scale study; they are limited by the heterogeneity of psychiatric diagnoses.

CONCLUSIONS: Maternal psychiatric disorders are associated with a lower birth weight, but the effect is unlikely to be due to abnormal utero-placental or feto-placental vascularisation. Further studies should investigate other possible causes of lower birth weight associated with maternal psychiatric disorders.

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