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Social Support and Birth Weight

Monday, 03 November 2008 15:06
A University of California study that included 250 pregnant women showed that an infant's birth weight may be affected by the amount of social support the mother receives during pregnancy. The women were asked if the baby's father would help them financially and otherwise with the baby, if their parents would be there for them, and if they had friends to turn to for support and assistance. The study found that women with several types of support from various sources during pregnancy had higher birth weight infants.

The relationship between social support and birth weight held even after the researchers took into account other factors often associated with low birth weight, including premature delivery, a history of stillbirth or spontaneous abortion, and medical conditions such as hypertension or epilepsy. The researchers speculated that social support may alter responses of the nervous system to stress and improve fetal growth. Social support may also inspire healthier behaviors and lifestyles among pregnant women and discourage high-risk behaviors such as smoking, substance use, and poor nutritional intake. Pregnant women with more social support may also be more likely to receive treatment for diseases associated with low infant birth weight.

— Psychosomatic Medicine, Sept./Oct. 2000