Introduction: Latina women have a high burden of depression and other mental health issues, particularly in the perinatal period. Suboptimal maternal mental health can have adverse developmental and physiological impacts on child growth. The present study examines the impact of unplanned pregnancy and pregnancy relationship status on prenatal maternal depression in a sample of low-income Latina women. We hypothesized that the association between these prenatal stressors and newborn health would be mediated through prenatal depression.
Method: The present study included a sample 201 Latina mothers and their children recruited from prenatal clinics during their second or third trimesters. Depression symptomology, relationship status were collected prenatally. At birth, several indices of newborn health were examined, including head circumference percentile and birthweight. Finally, planned pregnancy status was retrospectively collected when the child was between 1 and 2 years old.
Results: Structural equation modelling revealed that single women, compared to partnered women, had higher levels of depression. Higher levels of depression, in turn, predicted poorer newborn health. Unplanned pregnancy was not significantly associated with newborn health.
Discussion: These results suggest that relationship status may be an important screening question for medical examiners to ask to pregnant Latina women during prenatal visits. These results are consistent with past research investigating the effects of maternal mental health on adverse birth outcomes that propose that stressful early environments shape developmental trajectories.
Keywords: Depression; Infant health; Latinos; Life history theory; Planned pregnancy; Relationship status.
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