Springfield College Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Megan W. Harvey recently wrote original research that was selected as the Editor’s Choice for the November/December issue of Women’s Health Issues, the official journal of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health that is located within the Department of Health Policy and Management at Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, D.C.
Harvey, in partnership with colleagues from the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Colorado State University, and Boston Medical Center, measured stress and anxiety among pregnant Hispanic women in Western Massachusetts to determine if it predicted how much weight they gained during their pregnancy. Harvey and colleagues determined that women with the highest levels of stress and anxiety gained less weight during pregnancy than women not experiencing high stress and anxiety.
“These findings provide additional support for conclusions that, for women experiencing chronically high levels of chronic stress and anxiety, the additional stress of pregnancy may lead to diet disturbances and undereating,” Harvey and her colleagues write. “Future research should focus on culturally specific interventions to reduce high levels of stress and anxiety, and should evaluate if changes in gestational weight gain associated with stress or anxiety impact subsequent birth outcomes.”
Proyecto Buena Salud enrolled pregnant women with Puerto Rican and Dominican ancestry who sought prenatal care in Western Massachusetts. The authors categorized the 1,308 participants into quartiles based on their perceived stress and anxiety scores and found that those with the highest scores in early pregnancy gained 4-5 pounds less during pregnancy than those with the lowest scores. Those with high levels of stress and anxiety in mid/late pregnancy gained 3-4 pounds less.
“Given existing research documenting high levels of stress and anxiety in pregnant Hispanic people, it’s important to study the health effects,” said Amita Vyas, Editor-in-Chief of Women's Health Issues and Associate Professor of Prevention and Community Health at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University. “These findings make an important contribution to our understanding of the relationship between mental health and gestational weight gain and can help drive interventions for healthier pregnancies.”