Studies say poor economy affects birthrates and newborn health


A fetus in the first trimester is most affected by maternal emotions, study suggests. Image: lunar caustic/Flickr/CC BY SA

Two independent studies released this week draw correlations between economic hardship and infant decline. One suggests that fewer babies are born during tough financial times. Another shows a decline in the health of those who are born.

Fewer babies born in time of recession

A study by the Pew Research Center found that birthrates dropped during times of economic stress. The study examined birthrates in states with the greatest economic decline between 2007 and 2008, when the Great Recession began.  The study showed that the U.S. birthrate dropped from 4.3 million in 2007 to about 4 million in 2010.

During those times of economic decline, the report said, fertility clinics also saw a decline in number of patients. And family planning clinics see a surge in new clientele.

Fetal size affected by poor economy

A separate study says unexpected economic hardship can have a direct correlation on fetal health. The study was conducted at University of California at Berkeley, and its findings were published in the journal Epidemiology.

The study found that pregnant women in their first trimesters who lived in states that faced unexpected economic hardships gave birth to babies that were an average of 3.7 percent smaller than those born in more financially stable states. More than 6,700 births were examined between 1982 and 2000.

Fetus affected by maternal stress

The reason for this, speculated Dr. Claire Margerison-Zilko, one of the study’s authors, was due to “maternal behavior change or psychosocial stress during economic contractions.”

The correlation between economic stress and fetal size is most noticeable during the first trimester, the study speculates, because a fetus is at its most responsive to the mother’s emotional stress level at that early stage of development.

Life-long consequences

What happens in a baby’s first trimester can have a life-long impact. Babies who are smaller at birth face an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in later life.

Dr. Margerison-Zilko suggests that, based on the study, “vulnerable women need additional support and resources during times of economic stress.”

These findings may also point out that the down-turned economy has a debilitating and long-term effect on the populace in more ways than are easily observable.


Chicago Sun-Times
Daily Finance

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