BABY'S HEALTH IMRPOVES WITH MOTHER'S OUTLOOK
by Marci Lobel, Ph.D., Carla J. DeVincent,
M.A. Anita Kaminer, Ph.D. & Bruce A. Meyer, M.D.
The American Psychological Association has announced research showing
that optimism can reduce the chance of delivering low birth weight or
pre-term babies for medically high-risk pregnant women. Psychologist
Marci Lobel, Ph.D., and colleagues examined 129 women between 20 and
43 years old who were considered at high risk for early delivery and
low birth weight to determine if those with an optimistic outlook had
a better chance of having a healthy baby. The women were at medical
risk because of chronic medical conditions (such as hypertension or
diabetes) or previous medical problems (such as miscarriages) or because
of complications in their current pregnancy (such as bleeding or preeclampsia).
Optimism was determined by asking the women how much they agree
or disagree to statements like, "I always look on the bright side, I
always expect the best, I hardly ever expect things to go my way". Women
with higher scores were more likely to eat nutritional food and exercise
during pregnancy, said the authors.
"The women who were the least
optimistic during pregnancy delivered lower birth weight infants," said
Dr. Lobel. "Although less optimistic women also reported more stress
during pregnancy, stress alone is not the culprit; a woman's outlook
on her life and the health behaviors she practiced during pregnancy
were the factors that influenced her birth outcomes. More optimistic
women had better birth outcomes in part because they exercised more
frequently, which improved a baby's greater gestational age at birth."
These findings suggest that the absence of optimism may be as "important
to maternal and fetal health as other factors like medical risk which
have traditionally received greater attention," said Dr. Lobel. Other
research shows that optimism can be learned and that women with positive
states of mind cope more effectively with stress during pregnancy. Learning
how to construct positive expectancies and solve problems holds promise
as an intervention against adverse birth outcomes, suggest the authors.
References: "The Impact of Prenatal Maternal
Stress and Optimistic Disposition on Birth Outcomes in Medically High-Risk
Women," Marci Lobel, Ph.D., Carla J. DeVincent, M.A., Anita Kaminer,
Ph.D. and Bruce A. Meyer,
M.D.; Health Psychology,
Vol. 19, No. 6.