Freeman Spogli Institute
When a close relative dies, the stress can be overwhelming. But for many adults and children, mourning and grief often give way to healing.
A pair of Stanford scholars now focuses on the impact that loss has on often-overlooked family members: babies. A new publication by Petra Persson and Maya Rossin-Slater indicates that losing a loved one during pregnancy may actually impact the mental health of the child as he or she grows into adulthood.
“We find that prenatal exposure to the death of a maternal relative increases take-up of ADHD medications during childhood and anti-anxiety and depression medications in adulthood,” the researchers wrote in the April edition of the American Economic Review.
Both are faculty fellows at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy and Research (SIEPR); Rossin-Slater is an assistant professor of health research and policy with Stanford Medicine and Persson is an assistant professor of economics in the Department of Economics.
“Of course, you cannot prevent family members from dying, and we certainly do not want our findings to constitute yet another source of stress for expecting mothers, who already face rather intense pressure to eat the right foods, avoid activities deemed harmful, and experience an avalanche of health advice,” Persson said. “But our findings potentially point to the importance of generally reducing stress during pregnancy, for example through prenatal paid maternity leave and programs that provide resources and social support to poor, pregnant women.”
Their research focused specifically on singleton children in Sweden born between 1973 and 2011 whose mother lost a close relative during her pregnancy. They used population registers to construct family trees that span four generations, from the children to their maternal great-grandparents. Their sample included all children whose mother lost a close relative — a sibling, parent, maternal grandparent, the child’s father or her own older child — in the nine months after the child’s date of conception or the year after the child’s birth. The study did not account for the quality of those relationships.
Their analysis compared the outcomes of children whose mothers experienced a relative’s death while they were pregnant with those of children whose maternal relatives died in the year after birth. They were thus able to isolate the impacts of fetal exposure to maternal stress from bereavement from all other consequences associated with a family member’s passing, such as changes to family resources or household composition, which affect all children in their sample.
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Cindy Trafford [email protected] (link sends e-mail)
Dr. Bassin joined the faculty of Department of Emergency Medicine in 2009 after completing residency training at the University of Cincinnati where he served as Chief Resident. His academic interests include improving the quality, delivery and standardization of care to critically ill patients, advanced airway interventions, and the development of computerized clinical decision support tools. Additionally, he has a focus on LEAN healthcare facility design and utilizing process improvement and workflow optimization to maximize effectiveness of the built environment. He was an integral member of the planning, design and implementation team for the first ED ICU in the country, the U-M Emergency Critical Care Center (EC3). He is one of less than 10 physicians in the country to hold the Evidenced-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC) from the Center for Healthcare Design and currently is on the Lean Facility Design Steering Committee for the new Clinical Inpatient Tower at UMHS. He currently serves as the Director of Critical Care Operations, the Associate Medical Director for Critical Care Transport and the Associate Service Chief for the Department of Emergency Medicine. In these roles, he has an established track record of administrative leadership in process improvement, optimization of the delivery of ED-based critical care, quality assurance, risk mitigation, and throughput optimization utilizing lean-based strategies.
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