Cover: Improvements in Maternal Cardiovascular Health Over the Perinatal Period Longitudinally Predict Lower Postpartum Psychological Distress Among Individuals Who Began Their Pregnancies With Overweight or Obesity

Improvements in Maternal Cardiovascular Health Over the Perinatal Period Longitudinally Predict Lower Postpartum Psychological Distress Among Individuals Who Began Their Pregnancies With Overweight or Obesity

Published in: Journal of the American Heart Association, Volume 13, Issue 12, e034153 (June 2024). DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.123.034153

Posted on rand.org Jun 26, 2024

by Shannon D. Donofry, Riley J. Jouppi, Christine C. Call, Rachel P. Kolko Conlon, Michele D. Levine

Background

Adverse cardiovascular events during pregnancy (eg, preeclampsia) occur at higher rates among individuals with overweight or obesity (body mass index ≥25 kg/m2) and have been associated with postpartum depression. The present study examined whether changes in cardiovascular health (CVH) during the perinatal period, as defined by the American Heart Association's Life's Essential 8 framework, predicted postpartum psychological functioning among individuals with prepregnancy body mass index ≥25 kg/m2.

Methods and Results

Pregnant individuals (N = 226; mean ± SD age = 28.43 ± 5.4 years; mean body mass index = 34.17 ± 7.15 kg/m2) were recruited at 12 to 20 weeks of gestation (mean, 15.64 ± 2.45 weeks) for a longitudinal study of health and well‐being. Participants completed ratings of depression and perceived stress and reported on CVH behaviors (dietary intake, physical activity, nicotine exposure, and sleep) at baseline and at 6 months postpartum. Body mass index and CVH behaviors were used to calculate a composite CVH score at both time points. Linear regression analyses were performed to examine whether change in CVH related to postpartum symptom scores. Because sleep was measured in only a subset of participants (n = 114), analyses were conducted with and without sleep. Improved CVH was associated with lower postpartum depression (β = -0.18, P<0.01) and perceived stress (β = -0.13, P=0.02) scores. However, when including sleep, these relationships were no longer significant (all P>0.4).

Conclusions

Improvements in CVH from early pregnancy to 6 months postpartum were associated with lower postpartum depressive symptoms and perceived stress but not when including sleep in the CVH metric, potentially due to the large reduction in sample size. These data suggest that intervening during pregnancy to promote CVH may improve postpartum psychological functioning among high‐risk individuals.

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