Prenatal stress due to a natural disaster predicts adiposity in childhood: the Iowa Flood Study.

TitlePrenatal stress due to a natural disaster predicts adiposity in childhood: the Iowa Flood Study.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsDancause KN, Laplante DP, Hart KJ, O'Hara MW, Elgbeili G, Brunet A, King S
JournalJ Obes
Date Published2015
KeywordsAdiposity, Adult, Body Mass Index, Child, Preschool, Depression, Disasters, Female, Floods, Humans, Iowa, Male, Maternal Behavior, Pregnancy, Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects, Risk Factors, Skinfold Thickness

Prenatal stress can affect lifelong physical growth, including increased obesity risk. However, human studies remain limited. Natural disasters provide models of independent stressors unrelated to confounding maternal characteristics. We assessed degree of objective hardship and subjective distress in women pregnant during severe flooding. At ages 2.5 and 4 years we assessed body mass index (BMI), subscapular plus triceps skinfolds (SS + TR, an index of total adiposity), and SS : TR ratio (an index of central adiposity) in their children (n = 106). Hierarchical regressions controlled first for several potential confounds. Controlling for these, flood exposure during early gestation predicted greater BMI increase from age 2.5 to 4, as well as total adiposity at 2.5. Greater maternal hardship and distress due to the floods, as well as other nonflood life events during pregnancy, independently predicted greater increase in total adiposity between 2.5 and 4 years. These results support the hypothesis that prenatal stress increases adiposity beginning in childhood and suggest that early gestation is a sensitive period. Results further highlight the additive effects of maternal objective and subjective stress, life events, and depression, emphasizing the importance of continued studies on multiple, detailed measures of maternal mental health and experience in pregnancy and child growth.

Alternate JournalJ Obes
PubMed ID25874124
PubMed Central IDPMC4383437
Grant List / / Canadian Institutes of Health Research / Canada