Archive for the ‘Pregnancy and birth’ Category

Special screening: Business of Being Born

Posted by on January 8th, 2008 |

Filed in Announcements, Pregnancy and birth | No Comments »

This semester, I’m teaching a large (~650-student) undergraduate course titled Human Sexuality and Culture. I’m experimenting with a blog in that class, too, and some of you may want to stay tuned to what happens there.

For starters, I’ve just posted an announcement about a local screening of the new documentary, The Business of Being Born. Judging by the trailer, the film touches on many issues we dealt with in class last semester.

Hope over to the sexuality blog for more details.

September 11, stress, and low birthweight

Posted by on October 31st, 2007 |

Filed in Life course, Pregnancy and birth, Stress | No Comments »

In class this week, we briefly discussed the recent paper by Lauderdale and colleagues, which compared rates of preterm delivery for all births in California during six months before and after September 11, 2001. For women with Arabic names — and only for women with Arabic names — the risk of having a low birth weight baby increased 34% in the six months after 9/11.

Now, a new paper in the journal Human Reproduction reports that the trauma of September 11 also had an impact on the distribution of birthweight in New York City. Eskenazi and colleagues analyzed birth certificate data for all births in NYC and in upstate New York between January 1996 and December 2002. They found an increase in the number of babies born with low birth weights in the week following Sept. 11 in NYC, but not in upstate New York. They also found an increased risk of low birthweight for infants born around the New Year and for those born 33-36 weeks after Sept. 11. The first group would have been in the first or second trimester of gestation on Sept. 11; the second would have been conceived on or around Sept. 11.

The authors interpret these patterns in terms of the stress process. For women living in NYC, the World Trade Center disaster would have been a particularly traumatic event. The physiological response to such an acute stressor may have led to early birth and lower birthweight for some infants. Eskenazi and colleagues are not able to test the hypothesis thoroughly, because they did not have access to high quality data on gestational age. But in the context of other work on the stress process and pregnancy outcomes, the hypothesis is certainly plausible.

Of course, the acute trauma of September 11 is altogether different from the chronic stressors of everyday life. What significance do you think this new study has for our understanding of social inequalities in birth outcomes?