Prenatal Maternal Objective and Subjective Stress Exposures and Rapid Infant Weight Gain

J Pediatr. 2020 Jul:222:45-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.03.017. Epub 2020 May 14.


Objectives: To evaluate the associations between 3 prenatal stress exposures and rapid infant weight gain.

Study design: Participants were 162 maternal-child dyads drawn from a nonrandomized controlled trial evaluating a prenatal intervention for reducing women's stress and excessive gestational weight gain and subsequent longitudinal observational study of offspring outcomes. Participants were predominantly low-income and racial or ethnic minorities, and mothers were overweight or obese prepregnancy. Primary exposures were objective stress exposures (number of stressful life events) and subjective distress (maternal perceived stress and depressive symptoms) during pregnancy. The primary outcome was rapid infant weight gain from birth to 6 months, assessed via birth records and in-person anthropometry measurements.

Results: In total, 28% of the sample (N = 40) met criteria for rapid infant weight gain. In adjusted models, exposure to prenatal stressful life events was associated with increased odds of rapid infant weight gain (OR 1.40, 95% CI 1.07-1.83, P = .014). Neither prenatal perceived stress (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.16-1.37, P = .17) nor depressive symptoms (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.76-1.03, P = .13) were significantly associated with rapid infant weight gain.

Conclusions: Each additional stressful life event a woman experienced during pregnancy was associated with 40% greater odds of rapid infant weight gain. Future research should evaluate whether prenatal interventions that focus on reducing exposure to stressful events prevent rapid infant weight gain.

Keywords: infant weight gain; prenatal stress.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Gain*