JAMA logoChildhood behaviors like smoking, depression, mood and sleep disturbances, substance use and abuse may affect future pregnancy. Experts reveal that there may be a relation between psychosocial stressors during pregnancy and poor pregnancy outcomes. The outcomes may be low birth weight, intrauterine growth retardation and pre-term birth.

Previous studies restricted themselves to pregnancy itself and it revealed that pregnancy may be hampered due to psychosocial and maternal hardships in childhood and adolescence. Emily W. Harville, Ph.D., of Tulane University, New Orleans, and colleagues considered 4,865 women who faced at least one hardship during their childhood and had at least one live birth by the age of 41.

Participants enlisted for the study had their first child in their 20s and most of them had one, two or three children during their entire lifetime. It was observed that 1 percent of the women faced problems related to alcohol and almost 30 percent of the women faced problems as their father’s did not take keen interest during their schooling. Other common problems were financial problems and ignorance specifically from fathers.

“When results were examined by timing of exposure, family structure hardships and violence/mental health hardships most strongly influenced the birth outcomes if they happened in adolescence,” the authors note. “Overall, the highest risk for both low birth weight and pre-term birth was in those who had multiple hardships in adolescence only, but this was also a very small group.”

Out of the total women who delivered for the first time 385 women gave birth to a low weight baby and 349 women gave birth more than three weeks early. Considering all women in the study, 5.8 percent pregnancies were low birth weight babies and 6.5 percent resulted in pre-term birth. It was also observed that 39 percent of the women had smoked at some point during their first pregnancy.

“Our findings suggest that mothers who have experienced childhood hardship are more likely to smoke during pregnancy,” the authors write. “They also more often give birth to low birth weight babies who are born prematurely, but this association may be primarily due to health behaviors and associated social class.”

The experts suggest that these findings reveal that there is an increase in risk and an aggregate effect of hardships over time. Experts feel that further analyses are required to find a suitable relation between childhood adversities and reproductive health outcomes. This study is also expected to come up with shielding factors that may ease long-term influences of early adversity.

A report in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.