Maternal psychosocial functioning, obstetric health history, and newborn telomere length.
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<p>There is growing interest in elucidating the determinants of newborn telomere length, given its potential as a biomarker of lifetime disease risk affected by prenatal exposures. There is limited evidence that increased maternal stress during pregnancy predicts shorter newborn telomere length. However, the few studies published to date have been conducted primarily with small samples utilizing inconsistent definitions of maternal stress. Moreover, the potential influence of fetal sex as a moderator of maternal stress effects on newborn telomere length has been largely ignored despite compelling evidence of likely impact. In a prospective cohort study of pregnant women seeking routine prenatal care, we tested whether a range of maternal measures of stressor exposures, subjective feelings of stress, and mental health (depression, anxiety) were associated with newborn telomere length assessed from cord blood among 146 pregnant women and their newborn infants. We further examined whether the pattern of associations differed by infant sex. Sociodemographic and maternal and newborn health indicators were considered as potential covariates. When examined within the whole sample, none of the maternal psychosocial measures were associated with newborn telomere length. Among potential covariates, maternal history of smoking and preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy were negatively associated with newborn telomere length. In adjusted linear regression analyses that considered potential sex-specific effects, maternal depression, general anxiety, and pregnancy-specific anxiety symptoms were positively associated with newborn telomere length among males. Overall, the findings provide some evidence for an association between maternal psychosocial wellbeing in pregnancy and newborn telomere length in males, although in the opposite direction than previously reported. Maternal smoking and obstetric history prior to conception may be associated with shorter offspring telomere length.</p>