Research studies published till now have revealed that early life trauma can have a major negative impact on health in adulthood but it was not clear whether it extends to pregnancy. Working in this direction, some researchers in USA reviewed 32 relevant studies published between 1994 and 2022. 3 out of 4 were long term (cohort) studies with the remainder being comparative or observational (case-control) studies. 19 studies were carried out in USA, 6 in Europe, 3 in Canada and 4 in other regions. Participants ranged from 48 to 11,556 in number.
Pooled data analysis of 21 studies published in the open access journal BMJ Open showed that overall, women who had experienced some form of childhood trauma like emotional neglect, abuse, exposure to domestic violence were 37% more likely to have complications in pregnancy than those who hadn’t. They were 31% more likely to give birth to premature babies or give birth to underweight babies.
Further in-depth analysis revealed that childhood trauma was associated with a heightened risk of pregnancy related diabetes, a 59% heightened risk of antenatal depression, a 41% heightened risk of preterm delivery and a 27%heightened risk of giving birth to an underweight baby. The research suggested that childhood trauma might alter regulation of stress signalling pathways and immune system function, might also change function and structure of the brain and also might speed up cellular ageing.
Earlier studies had also published that women who experienced trauma in their childhood had greater likelihood of risky behaviours in adulthood like physical inactivity, poor diet and substance abuse which may influence the risk of pregnancy complications and outcomes. Most of the studies which were included in the research were from high income western nations so may not be generalizable elsewhere. Also the study could not assess the potential impact of different types of childhood trauma. But the definite conclusion of the research was that it emphasized the importance of preventing negative events in childhood to reduce immediate impacts and also intergenerational transmission.
Source: times now