(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – It’s normal for expectant moms to worry about how their new arrival will affect their family’s budget –but a new study shows how financial stress can affect the health of the baby. Researchers found that pregnancy-related anxiety was one reason why women experiencing financial stress deliver babies of lower birth weight.
“To gauge their level of financial strain, we asked pregnant women questions about how difficult it would be to live on their annual household income in the coming weeks as it related to things like medical care, housing situations and other expenses related to having a baby,” said Amanda Mitchell, lead author of the study and researcher at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “We found that the more stress a woman reported, the greater the likelihood that she would have a baby of low birth weight.”
Researchers also found that the level of financial strain was not dependent on income. “We found that high stress levels were present across all income levels,” said Lisa Christian, principal investigator of the study. “What that means is that 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 her expenses.”
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. Experts recommend finding ways to cope with stress during pregnancy to help reduce the risk to the baby.
“There is no reason to worry about things that are out of your control,” Christian said. “Instead, prepare for what you can change and create a financial plan. Reach out to friends and family for help, and find ways to reduce your anxiety like exercising or speaking with a psychiatrist. It is normal to feel financial strain during pregnancy, and there is a wealth of resources available to help.”