Women with severe and chronic anxiety during pregnancy are more likely to have smaller babies, says a new study.
The study authors demonstrated that the mother's anxiety during pregnancy impacts birth outcomes, including smaller babies, over and beyond factors such as drug use, education and race.
Low to moderate levels of anxiety in women during either the first or second trimester did not significantly affect the birth outcomes, but women who are severely anxious during much of their pregnancy should be considered for anxiety-reducing interventions.
Shahla M. Hosseini of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre, co-authored the study with Minhnoi W. Biglan, Cynthia Larkby, Maria M. Brooks, Michael B. Gorin and Nancy L. Day.
"One way to prevent health problems in children and adults is to focus care on the prenatal period," the authors note.
"It is key to pursue further research which addresses interventions to ameliorate the effects that a woman's trait anxiety has on the development of foetuses," they said.
The study was published in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology.