Iron is part of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of the blood and is used during brain and major organ development in foetuses. Researchers have found that maternal stress in the first trimester of pregnancy has been associated with low iron levels in children which could have significant impacts on later physical and mental development.
The collaborative study consisted of a research team from Ashkelon Academic College and Barzilai Medical Centre in Israel and the University of Michigan. Participants were recruited from Barzilai Medical Canter. Half of the participants were in the ‘stress group’. Their first trimester of pregnancy had been spent living in an area where there had been more than 600 rocket attacks. The other group were in their first trimester of pregnancy approximately 4 months after the rocket attacks had ended.
The women completed interviews and surveys assessing stress levels and the presence of anxiety and depression. After the birth, cord blood was collected from which the serum ferritin (iron) concentrations were measured.
Reported at the annual Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Boston, the research team had concluded that mother who had reported severe levels of stress during the first trimester of pregnancy had children with significantly lower levels of serum ferritin than those children born to mothers who had not experienced stress during pregnancy.