Maternal stress and distress and child nutritional status

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To assess the relationship between maternal stress and distress in pregnancy and 5-8 years postpartum and child nutritional status.


Longitudinal cohort study carried out in Jundiai city, Southeast Brazil, involving 409 women followed throughout pregnancy to 5-8 years postpartum, and respective children. Measures of stress and distress were obtained three times in pregnancy (at gestational ages lower than 16 weeks, from 20 to 26 weeks and from 30 to 36 weeks) and 5-8 years postpartum by the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventories (STAI). The nutritional status of the children was assessed by the World Health Organization body mass index (BMI) z-score for age. The relationship between child BMI z-score for age and scores of the PSS, GHQ and STAI was evaluated by multivariate linear regression, controlling for confounding variables.


BMI z-score for age of the children was negatively associated with maternal scores of the PSS 5-8 years postpartum and scores of the GHQ in the second trimester of pregnancy. BMI of the children was positively associated with maternal BMI and birthweight (R2= 0.13). There was −0.04 (confidence interval −0.07 to −0.9×10−2) decrease in child BMI per score unit of the PSS increase, and −0.09 (confidence interval −0.18 to −0.6×10−3) decrease in child BMI per score unit of the GHQ increase.


This study detected a relationship between maternal mental and nutritional status and child nutritional status, implying that if the mother is not physically or mentally well, her capacity for caring for her child may be impaired.

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