J Pediatr. 2018 Sep;200:166-173.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.04.040. Epub 2018 Jun 14.

Maternal Perceived Stress during Pregnancy Increases Risk for Low Neonatal Iron at Delivery and Depletion of Storage Iron at One Year

Rendina DN1, Blohowiak SE2, Coe CL1, Kling PJ3

Author information

1 – Department of Psychology, Harlow Center for Biological Psychology, Madison, WI.
2 – School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI; Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI.
3 – School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI; Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI. Electronic address: pkling@pediatrics.wisc.edu.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the impact of maternal stress during pregnancy on newborn iron and stage 1 iron deficiency at 1 year of age.

STUDY DESIGN: In total, 245 mothers and their newborn infants (52% male; 72% white) were recruited at the Meriter Hospital Birthing Center on the basis of known risk factors for iron deficiency. Umbilical cord blood hemoglobin and zinc protoporphyrin/heme (ZnPP/H) were determined to evaluate erythrocyte iron and plasma ferritin was determined to reflect storage iron. Mothers retrospectively reported stress experienced previously during pregnancy on a 25-item questionnaire. Blood was also was collected from 79 infants who were breastfed at 1 year of age.

RESULTS: Maternal recall of distress and health concerns during pregnancy correlated with cord blood ZnPP/H indices (r = 0.21, P < .01), even in the absence of major traumatic events. When concurrent with other known risks for iron deficiency, including maternal adiposity, socioeconomic status, and race, maternal stress had a summative effect, lowering cord blood iron. At 1 year, 24% of infants who were breastfed had moderate iron deficiency (plasma ferritin <12 µg/L). Higher cord blood ZnPP/H was predictive of this moderate iron deficiency (95% CI 0.26-1.47, P = .007). When coincident with maternal reports of gestational stress, the likelihood of low plasma ferritin at 1 year increased 36-fold in breastfed infants as compared with low-stress pregnancies (95% CI 1.33-6.83, P = .007).

CONCLUSIONS: Maternal recall of stress during pregnancy was associated with lower iron stores at birth. High cord blood ZnPP/H, reflecting low erythrocyte iron, was correlated with the likelihood of stage 1 iron deficiency at 1 year, when rapid growth can deplete storage iron in breastfed infants.

KEYWORDS: iron deficiency; psychosocial; risk factors; sex

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