Chronic Stress and C-Reactive Protein in Mothers During the First Postpartum Year

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Abstract

Objective

Elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease. The current study tested associations between psychosocial stress and CRP in a large sample of women during the first postpartum year.

Methods

We analyzed data collected by the five-site Community Child Health Network study, which studied a predominately poor population. Participants (n = 1206 women; 54% African American, 23% white, 23% Hispanic/Latina) were recruited shortly after the birth of a child. Multiple linear regression analyses tested associations of psychosocial stress in several life domains (financial, neighborhood, family, coparenting, partner relationship, discrimination, and interpersonal violence) with log-transformed CRP concentrations at 6-month and 1-year postpartum.

Results

Forty-eight percent of participants showed evidence of elevated CRP (≥3 mg/L) at 6-month postpartum, and 46% had elevated CRP at 12-month postpartum. Chronic financial stress at 1-month postpartum predicted higher levels of CRP at 6- (b = .15, SE = .05, p = .006) and 12-month postpartum (b = .15, SE = .06, p = .007) adjusting for race/ethnicity, income, education, parity, health behaviors, and chronic health conditions, though associations became nonsignificant when adjusted for body mass index.

Conclusions

In this low-income and ethnic/racially diverse sample of women, higher financial stress at 1-month postbirth predicted higher CRP. Study findings suggest that perceived financial stress stemming from socioeconomic disadvantage may be a particular deleterious form of stress affecting maternal biology during the year after the birth of a child.

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