CONTACT: DEBRA VENZKE
UI COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH
Release: Sept. 10, 2001
UI researchers receive grant to study effects of prenatal stress
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa College of Public Health researchers
have received a four-year, $1,676,490 grant from the National Institute of
Child Health and Human Development to study the role that prenatal maternal
stress plays in adverse birth outcomes.
Audrey Saftlas, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology in the UI College
of Public Health and its Center for Health Policy and Research, will serve
as principal investigator of the study. Marci Lobel, Ph.D., associate professor
of psychology at the State University of New York Stony Brook, will
serve as the project's co-principal investigator.
The study will investigate the effects of maternal stress on the risk of
two adverse pregnancy outcomes: preterm delivery and birth of growth-retarded
infants (small-for-gestational age). Preterm delivery and intra-uterine growth
retardation are the key causes of low birth weight, which in turn is the major
cause of infant mortality in the United States.
"Most studies of maternal stress have focused on risk of low birth weight
rather than the causes of low birth weight," Saftlas said. "Our
study will be among the first to examine the effects of prenatal stress on
these birth outcomes in a large number of women from the general population.
From this research, we hope to identify strategies to prevent low birth weight
The population-based case-control study will enroll more than 3,000 mothers,
all residents of three Iowa counties, who give birth between January 1, 2002,
and December 31, 2003.
"This research is timely and important as a step in understanding factors
during pregnancy related to healthy babies," said James Torner, Ph.D.,
professor and head of the UI department of epidemiology. "The study will
provide a valuable contribution in determining the role of individual and
social dynamics. This study has institutional approval and is voluntary with
the information provided as confidential and private."
Douglas Wakefield, Ph.D., professor and director of the UI Center for Public
Health Policy and Research, said, "Results from this study have the potential
to reduce the high burden of maternal illness and infant mortality and disability
on this vulnerable population in Iowa and the nation. In addition, it should
provide a framework for developing strategies to improve access to and the
quality of medical care for high risk women in Iowa."
Other UI researchers involved in the study include investigators Robert Woolson,
Ph.D., professor, department of biostatistics; Susan Murty, Ph.D., associate
professor in the School of Social Work; Susan Schechter, clinical professor,
School of Social Work; and Jerome Yankowitz, M.D., associate professor, department
of obstetrics and gynecology.