Objective: In the context of the importance of elucidating the determinants of the initial, newborn setting of telomere length (TL), it is increasingly evident that maternal stress and stress-related processes during pregnancy play a major role. Although psychological resilience may function as a buffer, research in this area has not yet examined its potential role vis-à-vis that of stress. The authors examined the relationship between maternal psychological resilience during pregnancy and newborn TL.
Methods: In a sample of 656 mother-child dyads from the Prediction and Prevention of Preeclampsia and Intrauterine Growth Restriction cohort, multiple serial assessments were conducted over the course of pregnancy to quantify maternal stress, negative and positive emotional responses to pregnancy events, positive affect, and perceived social support. Principal component analysis identified two latent factors: stress and positivity. A measure of resilience was computed by regressing the positivity factor on the stress factor, in order to quantify positivity after accounting for stress. TL was measured using quantitative polymerase chain reaction in leukocytes extracted from cord blood shortly after birth. Linear regression was used to predict newborn TL from maternal resilience during pregnancy, adjusting for other potential determinants.
Results: Maternal stress significantly predicted shorter newborn TL (β=-0.079), and positivity significantly predicted longer TL (β=0.135). Maternal resilience (positivity accounting for stress) was significantly and positively associated with newborn TL (β=0.114, 95% CI=0.035, 0.189), with each standard deviation increase in resilience predicting 12% longer newborn TL.
Conclusions: The results indicate that maternal psychological resilience may exert a salubrious effect on offspring telomere biology and highlight the importance of enhancing maternal mental health and well-being during pregnancy.
Keywords: Positive Psychology; Pregnancy; Psychological Resilience; Social Support; Stress; Telomere.