Pregnant women already have plenty of anxieties to keep them up at night: how will the delivery go, will they be a good mother. But new research is showing that they’re also worrying about money—and that it’s having an adverse effect on their baby’s health.
The study, which tracked 138 racially diverse women over the course of two years, found a correlation between stressing out when you’re expecting and delivering a baby with a lower birth weight.
Low birth weight, defined as below 5 pounds and 8 ounces, often results in health problems and can lead to weeks spent in intensive care post-delivery. It’s also been linked to health issues later in life, such as respiratory and digestive problems and a higher risk for heart disease and obesity.
“To gauge their level of financial strain, we asked pregnant women questions about how difficult it would be to live on their annual household income in the coming weeks,” said Amanda Mitchell, lead author of the study and researcher at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, in a press release. “We found that the more stress a woman reported, the greater the likelihood that she would have a baby of low birth weight.”
Some of the financial-related stress included concerns about working after the baby was born, the costs of healthcare and housing, and what overall effect the baby would have on their standard of living.
The study also showed that having more money didn’t equal worrying about money less. “We found that high stress levels were present across all income levels,” said Lisa Christian, principal investigator of the study, in a press release. “It wasn’t just how much money someone had available that was driving this effect. It was actually the perception of her ability to meet her expenses.”
The study’s authors suggest that pregnant women seek help to deal with their stress, or try stress-reduction techniques such as meditation.
But they also stress—pun intended—the value of financial planning when it comes to quieting your money worries. “There is no reason to worry about things that are out of your control,” Christian said. “Instead, prepare for what you can change and create a financial plan.