Examination of the Role of Obesity in the Association Between Childhood Trauma and Inflammation During Pregnancy

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Objective: Childhood trauma is associated with negative perinatal health outcomes including mood disorders and shorter gestation. However, effects of early life exposures on maternal biology are poorly delineated. This study examined associations between childhood trauma and inflammation, as well as the mediating role of obesity in this relationship. Method: This study examined a racially diverse sample of 77 pregnant women assessed in early, mid, and late pregnancy. Assessments included the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale, serum CRP, IL-6, and TNF-α, and prepregnancy BMI. Results: Per linear mixed models, while no direct relationships were observed between childhood trauma with IL-6 or TNF-α, physical (95% CI: 0.007, 0.080) and emotional (95% CI: 0.005, 0.046) abuse as well as emotional neglect (95% CI: 0.010, 0.051) predicted elevated CRP. Effects remained after adjustment for race, income, education, smoking status, medical conditions, and depressive symptoms. PROCESS analyses showed BMI mediated the relationship between physical abuse and both serum CRP (95% CI: 0.014, 0.062) and IL-6 (95% CI: 0.009, 0.034). Conclusions: Exposure to childhood trauma, particularly emotional abuse, physical abuse, and emotional neglect, is associated with inflammation in pregnant women. Obesity served as 1 pathway by which physical abuse contributed to elevations in serum CRP and IL-6. Interventions targeting maternal obesity prior to pregnancy may help mitigate the effects of childhood trauma on perinatal health. These findings have relevance for understanding biological and behavioral pathways by which early life exposures contribute to maternal health.

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