Stress during pregnancy linked to shorter telomeres for white, not Black, children


December 15, 2022

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Maternal stress during pregnancy was associated with shortened telomeres in offspring of white mothers, but not in offspring born to black mothers, according to prospective data published in . psychology.

Telomeres shorten with age, and their length has been linked to the development of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, according to a press release about research from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

“There are some early studies showing that pregnancy stress is associated with shortened telomeres in babies.” Dr. Stephanie Meyer An assistant professor of psychiatry at UCSF told Healio. “Understanding how aging begins in the womb and is associated with maternal stress is an important area of ​​research. However, these studies were often done only in whites. [population] sample. We wanted to understand how stress is transmitted to the next generation and how stress crosses race given racial disparities in health and stress. We were also interested in understanding what stressful life experiences are most important for telomeres. ”

Cohort definition

Meyer et al. conducted the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study, which enrolled white and black girls aged 9 or 10 years from 1987 to 1988 and followed them until they were 19 or 20 years old for evaluation. (NGHS) recruited the first participants. Obesity and racial disparities in her CVD.

Using saliva provided by middle-aged participants and their biological offspring, researchers assessed the effects of maternal stressors during puberty, pregnancy, and lifelong on children’s telomere length.

In total, 222 pairs of mothers (mean age 39.31 years) and their youngest children (mean age 8.12 years) were included. Her cohort had 112 black mothers and 110 white mothers. Most (63%) participants retrospectively reported at least one pregnancy stressor in midlife, 57% reported at least one social stressor, and 38% reported at least one economic stressor. reported.

Maternal and child telomere length were positively correlated, but child telomere length was not associated with maternal race, age, education, annual household income, and child age.

Relationship between stressors and telomere length in children

Maternal stressors during pregnancy and racing were associated with offspring telomere length. Specifically, more stressors were associated with shorter telomeres in children, but only among children born to white mothers. , revealed a negative association between maternal stressors during pregnancy among offspring of white mothers. However, the association for children of white mothers was not significant.

Further analysis revealed that the interaction between maternal race and economic stressors during pregnancy (but not social stressors) predicted telomere length in children (P. = .024).

Stephanie Meyer

“We don’t see this effect in children of black mothers, and more research is needed to understand this,” Meyer said. Our stress measures didn’t capture the right kind of stress (such as discrimination).”

Additional analysis showed that economic stressors were associated with shorter telomeres only in boys with white mothers (P. = .01).

Analysis of maternal stressors during adolescence and lifelong revealed no interaction between maternal race and offspring telomere length. These stressors also did not affect telomere length in children when stratified by race.

“It is now well established that stress during pregnancy can have important effects on both women’s health and fetal development.” Elissa S. Dr. Epel, A professor and associate director of psychiatry at UCSF told Healio. “Our study helps us understand how stress affects babies and can be tracked throughout life.”

Meyer said the team will continue to follow up on the cohort to understand the effects of intergenerational stress on long-term health and aging.

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