Expectant mothers could be doing unknown harm to their unborn babies if they move house during the early stages of pregnancy, according to a recent study.
The research was carried out by a team at Washington University. They found that the first three months of pregnancy are is when the risk is at its greatest.
Babies born to mothers who moved house in this early stages of their pregnancy were 37% more likely to have a low birth weight.
There was also a 42% higher chance of them being born premature, than those babies to mothers who stayed in a stable home environment.
Both low birth weight and premature births increase risks to a baby’s health and can lead to other complications in later life.
The researchers believe that all the stresses of moving home and physical strain can have an impact on the baby’s development.
There is also the possibility that during this busy time, mothers could suffer interruptions to their regular healthcare.
The leader of the study Julia Bond said: “Our results yield important insights regarding moving during pregnancy.
“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 patients on stress mitigating techniques and care continuity may be beneficial.”
The study compared 30,000 children born to mothers who moved in the first three months of pregnancy, compared to 120,000 whose mothers stayed in the same home.
Although they found that the mothers who moved, were also more likely to have been smokers, they still found there was a risk to the baby’s health.
However, experts have advised expectant mothers not to become too concerned if they need to move house.
Dr Nadja Reissland, from Durham University, said: “The message to take from this study… that stress in the first trimester can result in a small increase in risk of negative outcomes in terms of gestation, birthweight, and to some extent growth, is to reduce or avoid stressful scenarios when it is 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.”
If you are moving to a new area during pregnancy, it is also important to remember to register with your local GP and midwife.