June 12, 2009

Preemies linked to mom’s depression

Prepregnancy depression appears to be a risk factor in preterm birth among both black and white mothers, U.S. researchers said.

Amelia Gavin of the University of Washington said black women, however, have nearly two times the odds of having a preterm birth compared to white women.

Preterm births are one of the most significant health disparities in the United States and the overall number of these births increased from 10.6 percent in 2000 to 12.8 percent in 2005, Gavin said in a statement.

For this study, premature birth was defined as any child born after less than 37 weeks of gestation.

Normal gestation ranges from 38-42 weeks. Data for the study was drawn from a larger longitudinal investigation looking at the risks for cardiovascular disease among more than 5,000 young adults in four metropolitan areas.

The study, published in the Journal of Women's Health, found 18.1 percent of the black women had a preterm birth compared to 8.5 percent of the white women.

This difference may be the result of what she calls weathering, or accelerated declines in health due to repeated socioeconomic and political factors.