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Reproductive & Child Health News

Male Unemployment Can Affect Baby's Birth Weight

BERKELEY, CA--Unemployment among adult males may have an indirect and overlooked social cost, according to a study that linked early delivery, low birth weight, and health problems in infants with stress resulting from unemployment. "Rising unemployment can affect the health of individuals associated with the unemployed person by both increasing the demands on them and decreasing their coping resources," said Ralph Catalano, Ph.D., lead investigator and director of the School of Public Health at the University of California Berkeley. The female partners of unemployed males commonly experience stress. Rising unemployment in the community at large can also induce stress, even in those not directly affected, by reducing support from friends and relatives. For pregnant women, stress is a risk factor for pre-term delivery, very low infant birth weight (less than 1500 grams, or 3.3 lbs.), and subsequent infant illness. Stress is thought to play a role in inducing pre-term labor by its debilitating effect on the immune system. An economically stress-weakened woman may be less able to fight infection during the course of her pregnancy, a condition that increases her risk of premature delivery.


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