A woman's health during pregnancy affects her child's health throughout life. Poor nutrition during pregnancy results in poor growth for the infant, such as low birth weight. It can also increase risk of diabetes and obesity later in life. Stress during pregnancy has similar effects. Stress during pregnancy can negatively affect fetal growth, and can increase risk of obesity and diabetes in childhood and adulthood. However, few studies analyze stress during pregnancy and nutrition during pregnancy together. Furthermore, most of our studies on prenatal stress come from advantaged samples, such as women with high education and high income. The effects of stress during pregnancy and poor nutrition during pregnancy might be more severe among disadvantaged women, such as women with low income. These women already have greater risk of giving birth to babies with low birth weight, and their children have greater risk of obesity. Studies of stress during pregnancy among these women might provide another way to address these public health concerns.
I plan to study how stress, nutrition, and physical activity during pregnancy work together to affect infant and child growth. I will recruit pregnant women to analyze their diet, stress, and activity patterns during pregnancy. I will measure the growth of their children from birth to age 2 years. I will use surveys of daily stress and nutrition, as well as measures of heart rate and breathing, which provide a marker of stress. Eventually, we can use this research to create interventions to help women improve their diet and physical activity levels and to reduce stress during pregnancy. I believe this research will be interesting for women in disadvantaged communities, and can improve health for women and children.