Measuring Allostatic Load in a Nationally Representative Sample of Pregnant Women
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Allostatic load (AL) is a measure of cumulative "wear and tear" on the body resulting from exposure to chronic stress. Recently, a potential link between AL and poor birth outcomes was proposed, although it is unknown whether AL can be measured in a meaningful way during pregnancy. To determine this, an AL index was created using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2006. The distribution of AL scores were significantly different in pregnant and non-pregnant women (p<0.01). AL scores were associated with race, age, income, and education level in the sample of non-pregnant women, but similar associations were not seen in pregnant women. Overall, the results of this study suggest that AL does not have the same attributes in pregnant women as it does in non-pregnant women. However, the findings suggest directions for future study of AL as a risk factor for poor birth outcomes.