April 24, 2017
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A financially strapped pregnant woman’s worries about the arrival and care of her little one could contribute to birth of a smaller, medically vulnerable infant, a new study suggests.
Researchers at The Ohio State University found that pregnancy-specific distress, such as concerns that the baby’s needs won’t be met, appears to be a pathway between financial strain and higher likelihood of a low-birth-weight infant. The study appeared in the journal Archives of Women’s Mental Health.
“There is an opportunity here to look for interventions during pregnancy that could help mitigate the effects of financial strain on birth outcomes,” said lead author Amanda Mitchell, a postdoctoral researcher in Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Stress and Health in Pregnancy Research Program.
While larger efforts to improve access to housing, jobs and support for low-income women is critical, there are potential low-cost, stress-reduction techniques that could help reduce risk, Mitchell said. Meditation and breathing exercises could prove useful, for instance, she said.
“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 study included 138 pregnant women who filled out questionnaires to assess financial strain, depressive symptoms, pregnancy-specific distress, perceived stress and general anxiety. Moms in the racially diverse study group were between five and 31 weeks pregnant and 29 years old on average at the time of the assessment. The study, which was primarily designed to evaluate flu vaccine effectiveness, ran from 2013 to 2015.
After the participants’ babies were born, researchers were able to review medical records to compare birth weight against moms’ questionnaire responses during pregnancy.
The researchers knew from previous studies that pregnant moms who are socioeconomically disadvantaged have a higher likelihood of having smaller babies and worse birth outcomes.
What they wanted to learn was whether specific factors could be driving that connection – factors that could lead to positive interventions for women at risk of delivering low-birth-weight babies.
Statistical models designed to identify those drivers landed on one statistically significant factor: pregnancy-specific distress.
“This includes concerns about labor and delivery, about relationships changing, about working after the baby arrives, paying for medical care, and whether the baby will be unhealthy,” said study senior author Lisa Christian, associate professor of psychiatry and a member of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State.
Financial strain was assessed based on a five-point scale derived from moms’ responses to three questions: “How difficult is it for you to live on your total household income right now?” “In the next two months, how likely is it that you and your family will experience actual hardships, such as inadequate housing, food, or medical attention?” and “How likely is it that you and your family will have to reduce your standard of living to the bare necessities of life?”
Low-birth-weight babies often suffer from serious health problems and spend their first weeks or months in intensive care. About 8 percent of babies born in the United States are underweight at birth. Low birth weight is clinically defined as below 2,500 grams, or 5 pounds and 8 ounces.
“It’s important to understand the factors that make it more likely for a woman with lower socioeconomic conditions to have a baby at higher risk of complications and death,” Mitchell said.
Limitations of the study include the fact that it was a secondary analysis of data collected during a different study, and that the overall number of low-birth-weight babies was small, at 11. The researchers suggest that replicating this study in a larger group would be beneficial.
The Ohio State researchers are working on another study looking at blood biomarkers that might better explain what biological changes could be at play, including inflammation, Mitchell said.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
View the press release video here: http://bit.ly/2oY3QgW
April 5, 2017
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Body weight plays a significant role in how much benefit children may get from consuming “good” fats, new research suggests.
As kids’ weight climbs, power of healthy
fat supplements drops
The researchers compared fatty acid uptake after kids took a supplement to both overall body weight and body-mass index. The more a child weighed, the smaller the measurement was of two key omega-3 fatty acids in their bloodstream. And the higher the BMI category, the lower the levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
The study provides important information to parents trying to ensure their kids get an appropriate amount of omega-3 fatty acids and also highlights the need for weight-appropriate dosing of supplements and medications, say researchers from The Ohio State University. Their study appears in the journal PLOS ONE.
Most of the science behind omega-3 benefits has concentrated on adults, infants and small children. But a growing body of research is looking at their role in the health of older children. In particular, omega-3 consumption has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase good cholesterol (HDL) in children 8 to 15 years old.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found naturally in foods including salmon, walnuts and soybeans. Parents looking to feed their children more of these foods should be mindful that as they gain weight they’ll need more of them to make a difference, said lead author Lisa Christian, an associate professor of psychiatry in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.
Dr. Lisa Christian
“While this study just looked at fatty acid supplements, it’s important to recognize that weight differences could factor into how children and adults respond to many types of medications,” Christian said.
“Weight, rather than age, may be more meaningful when determining recommended doses. The difference in size between a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old can be quite significant,” she said.
Dr. Mary Fristad
The data comes from a trial conducted by Mary Fristad, professor of psychiatry, psychology and nutrition, and Eugene Arnold, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral health. Their work looked at fatty-acid supplementation in 64 children with mood disorders. The 7- to 14-year-old children took either an omega-3 supplement or a placebo for 12 weeks. Those who took the supplement received 2,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of four capsules daily.
“We have a growing body of evidence that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for physical and mental health. This paper gives us more information about an important question about taking omega-3 supplements -- how much is a good amount,” Fristad said of the new study.
Given fluctuations in BMI percentile measures as children grow, it would seem to make the most sense to base dosing on weight alone, Christian said.
The study also points to a need to consider weight-related differences in all studies of omega-3 intake in adults and children, the researchers wrote in their study.
The study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Other Ohio State researchers who worked on the study were Amanda Mitchell, Martha Belury and Barbara Gracious. Andrea Young of Johns Hopkins University also contributed.
Baby's Sex Plays a Role in Pregnant Women's Immunity
February 9, 2017
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Most pregnant women have heard theories and old wives’ tales about the differences between carrying a girl and a boy. Some say you can tell what a woman will have, simply based on the foods she craves or the way she looks.
But a new study, conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, has found some science behind the speculations. Researchers followed 80 women through pregnancy, exposing their immune cells to bacteria in the lab, and noticed some significant differences.
Dr. Amanda Mitchell
"What the findings showed is that women carrying girls exhibited greater inflammatory responses when faced with some sort of immune challenge compared to women carrying boys," said Amanda Mitchell, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "This could mean that inflammation may play a role in why some women who are carrying girls have more severe reactions to illnesses, making symptoms of conditions like asthma worse for them during pregnancy."
Melissa Fox noticed her allergies suddenly flared up while pregnant with her daughter, which didn’t happen with her son. A new study suggests that might not be a coincidence.
Scientists found that immune cell samples of women carrying girls produced more proteins called proinflammatory cytokines than those carrying boys, which is part of the inflammatory response. "Too many of these cytokines or too much inflammation can really be unhelpful for our bodies’ functioning," Mitchell said. "It can create or contribute to symptoms like fatigue or achiness."
So, there’s now some evidence behind the notion that women carrying girls may be more likely to have a harder time with illnesses during pregnancy than if they were carrying a boy.
Biomarker in Pregnant Women Linked to Depression, Low Infant Birth Weight
January 12, 2017
Pregnant women experience a dramatic decline of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in their last trimester, which may contribute to depression during pregnancy and low birth weights.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Depression is very common during pregnancy, with as many as one in seven women suffering from the illness and more than a half million women impacted by postpartum depression in the U.S. alone. The disorder not only affects the mother’s mood, but has also been linked to influencing the newborn’s development, according to recent research.
Lower blood levels of a biomarker called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) have been associated with depression in multiple studies, mainly in non-pregnant adults.
Now, in a study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, research from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that BDNF levels change during pregnancy, and can cause depression in the mother and low birth weight in the baby.
Dr. Lisa Christian
"Our research shows BDNF levels change considerably across pregnancy and provide predictive value for depressive symptoms in women, as well as poor fetal growth. It’s notable that we observed a significant difference in BDNF in women of different races," said Lisa M. Christian, an associate professor of psychiatry in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center and principal investigator of the study.
Researchers took blood serum samples during and after pregnancy from 139 women and observed that BDNF levels dropped considerably from the first through the third trimesters, and subsequently increased at postpartum. Overall, black women exhibited significantly higher BDNF than white women during the perinatal period.
Controlling for race, lower BDNF levels at both the second and third trimesters predicted greater depressive symptoms in the third trimester. In addition, women delivering low versus healthy weight infants showed significantly lower BDNF in the third trimester, but didn’t differ in depressive symptoms at any point during pregnancy, which suggests separate effects.
Cryssie Cox (right) talks with Lace Vanemen (left) and her children. Cox met Vaneman through a support group, which is another option to help deal with depression during pregnancy.
"The good news is there are some good ways to address the issue," Christian said. "Antidepressant medications have been shown to increase BDNF levels. This may be appropriate for some pregnant women, but is not without potential risks and side effects."
"Luckily, another very effective way to increase BDNF levels is through exercise," she said.” With approval from your physician, staying physically active during pregnancy can help maintain BDNF levels, which has benefits for a woman’s mood, as well as for her baby’s development."
View the press release video here: https://youtu.be/BDTDdKx5IlM