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July 1990

Maternal Psychological Stress/Depression and Low Birth Weight: Is There a Relationship?

Author Affiliations

From the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, University of Rochester (NY) Medical Center.

Am J Dis Child. 1990;144(7):789-792. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1990.02150310057027

The high incidence of low birth weight (birth weight <2500 g) in the United States is of great concern.1 Despite a decrease in the neonatal mortality rate during the last decade, the incidence of low birth weight has changed little during that time.2 Because it is still not understood why mothers are having low-birth-weight infants, new research directions are clearly indicated. We believe that further study of the relationship between maternal psychological stress and/or depression and low birth weight is needed in populations at risk of psychological stress, depression, and low birth weight.

Psychological stress is defined as "a particular relationship between the person and his or her environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being. "3 Animal4,5 and human6,7 studies suggest a relationship between maternal stress and low birth weight, but the

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