Stress during pregnancy has been associated with a number of poor health implications for offspring, including low birthweight and increased risk of asthma and allergies. For the first time, a new study suggests chronic stress in pregnancy may increase a child's risk for dental decay.
A reasearch team from King's College in London and University of Washington in Seattle analysed data from 716 children aged 2-6 years, and their mothers. Biological markers of chronic stress - as assessed by markers of allostatic load (AL) - were analyzed during mothers' pregnancy. Specifically, the team assessed blood levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and C-reactive protein, as well as their blood pressure and waist circumference.
Compared with mothers who had low stress markers, those with higher stress levels were significantly more likely to have offspring with dental decay. What is more, they found incidence of dental caries among offspring was more common among those who were not breastfed.
The researchers, who published their study in the American Journal of Public Health, conclude that their findings suggest that policies to improve children's dental health should include strategies to improve mothers' quality of life during pregnancy.