African-American women undergo more physical “wear-and-tear” during the first year after giving birth than Latina and white women, a consequence that may have long-lasting health effects, according to a study of a diverse group of more than 2,400 low-income women.

The study in today’s (Friday, Dec. 14) American Journal of Perinatology involved women of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds who were interviewed and evaluated at five different clinical sites in the United States.

In addition to insight into health risks facing new mothers, researchers united by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Community Child Health Network found evidence that women who breastfeed their babies may receive some protection from the health damage caused by physical stress of pregnancy and giving birth.

“All mothers are affected by stress, but low-income women and especially African-American and Hispanic women have more adverse health-risk profiles during their children’s first years of life,” said Sharon Landesman Ramey, a professor and distinguished research scholar at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and an author of the paper. “Our study was designed to look for biomarkers that are sensitive to psychological and physical stressors, and in turn determine whether those stressors contribute to poor outcomes for mothers and children.”

Working groups of clinicians guided by scientists and community members recorded blood pressures, heart rates, cholesterol profiles, body mass indexes, waist-hip ratios, and other biomarkers in women six months and one year after they had given birth. In addition, women were assessed before they gave birth, some even before they became pregnant.

Read more at EurekAlert