INFANT MORTALITY; Impact of Stress

The Florida Times Union, November 15, 2007 | Go to article overview

INFANT MORTALITY; Impact of Stress


Stress has been implicated with all sorts of illnesses.

But to pregnant women, it can have devastating impacts.

A study group formed by Jacksonville Community Council Inc. is examining the causes and solutions involving the deaths of infants less than 1 year old. Stress may be one of the most overlooked factors.

Felix Acholonu, a physician and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at St. Vincent's Medical Center, emphasized stress during a recent meeting of the study group.

In his presentation, he described maternal stress as "perhaps the most underestimated contributor to the disparity in infant mortality."

Consider:

- Stress may be transmitted from the mother to the fetus.

- Stress likely reduces the mother's immune function and could reduce the fetus' immune system.

- Stress could lead to preterm labor, which could also lead to low birthweight infants, two of the major warning signs for infant mortality.

As Acholonu says, the causes of infant mortality involve much more than health, but its interplay with economics and the social environment is important.

Infant mortality rates in Jacksonville are high generally when compared to rates for the state and nation.

But rates for African-Americans are about twice those of whites.

"That maternal stress is perhaps transmitted in utero to the baby, who then grows up and is preprogrammed to respond to stress in a certain way may explain the finding that even college-educated black women have higher rates of pre-term delivery and low birthweight babies than their white counterparts," Acholonu wrote. …

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