Moving house in the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the chance of premature birth and low birth weight by a third, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at birth certificates for babies born in Washington state between 2007 and 2014, including 28,000 women who moved early in pregnancy and 112,000 who didn’t.
Overall, 9.1% of the babies born to mothers who moved in the first three months of pregnancy arrived early – that figure was 6.4% for those who didn’t move. And 6.4% of those who moved had babies with low birth weight, compared to 4.5% for those who didn’t move.
But don’t fret too much – the risk to your child is quite small. A third makes it sound like an enormous jump, but it’s a one-third increase to what is a small chance in the first place.
Women who moved were also more likely to be younger and have smoked during pregnancy, and less likely to have finished high school.
The authors of the paper, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, said the associations between a house change and “adverse infant outcomes” were present across all levels of socio-economic status.
The team suggested that interruptions to healthcare, the physical strain of moving, disruptions to social support, and a biological stress reaction may all be factors, but that the data made it impossible to say.
“Try to plan the move as much as possible to reduce the stress we all know it can cause.”
They concluded: “Regardless of whether the negative impact of moving is driven by the stress from the move itself, stressful situations leading to a move, or disruption of care because of the move, asking patients about plans to move and using that as an opportunity to counsel them on stress-mitigating techniques and care continuity may be beneficial.”
Birte Harlev-Lam, executive director for professional leadership at the Royal College of Midwives, said they would advise pregnant women who are moving house to avoid any heavy lifting, take regular rests and discuss it with their midwife who will offer support and advice. “Try to plan the move as much as possible to reduce the stress we all know it can cause,” she said.
[Read More: Early Pregnancy Signs (Other Than A Missed Period)]
Dr Nadja Reissland, professor in psychology with a research programme in foetal psychology at Durham University, agreed that the message to take from this study – and others which suggest that stress in the first trimester can result in a small increase in risk of negative outcomes – is to reduce or avoid stressful scenarios when it's within your control to do so.
“However, women should not worry too much if they have to move house as the increased risk of harm to their unborn child is very small,” she added.