WASHINGTON, DC (November 24, 2020)—Gaining too much or too little weight during pregnancy is associated with poor maternal and infant outcomes, but too little research has examined factors affecting gestational weight gain (GWG) in Hispanic women. A study selected as the Editor’s Choice for the November/December issue of Women’s Health Issues reports that in a group of predominantly Puerto Rican women, those with the highest levels of stress and anxiety gained less weight during pregnancy than those with the lowest levels.
Women’s Health Issues is the official journal of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, which is based in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.
Megan W. Harvey of Springfield College and her colleagues used data from the prospective cohort study Proyecto Buena Salud, which enrolled pregnant women with Puerto Rican and Dominican ancestry who sought prenatal care in Western Massachusetts, to examine the relationship between stress, anxiety, and gestational weight gain. 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.
“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 GWG associated with stress or anxiety impact subsequent birth outcomes.”
“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 SPH. “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.”
“Stress and Anxiety are Associated with Lower Gestational Weight Gain in Hispanic Women” has been published in the November/December issue of Women’s Health Issues.