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Monday, July 21, 2008

UI seeks pregnant women and new moms for study on emotional impact of flooding

Even under the best circumstances, women may experience a variety of emotions during and after pregnancy, ranging from happy and elated to moody, irritable and depressed. Now University of Iowa researchers want to study how the floods of 2008 have affected the emotional experiences of pregnant women and new moms.

Researchers will examine the flood's impact on mothers and their babies by comparing the experiences of those who were and were not affected by flooding. The study will investigate the women's emotional and stressful life experiences and how those experiences might influence mother and infant health.

Women who are currently pregnant and women who delivered babies in Johnson, Linn and Black Hawk counties after June 10, 2008, are invited to participate in the study by the Iowa Depression and Clinical Research Center. Participants must be 18 or older and will be compensated.

"We know from many studies that the experience of life stress can affect health, including the health of pregnant women and new mothers," said UI Psychology Professor and Starch Faculty Fellow Michael O'Hara, director of the Iowa Flood Study. "We also know that maternal stress can affect the developing fetus and even newborns, although we don't yet understand why these effects can sometimes be beneficial and sometimes be harmful.

"But only a few earlier studies have prospectively examined the effects of a natural disaster on pregnancy and the health of the mother and baby. By studying women soon after the flooding, we hope to expand our knowledge of the effects of severe stressors on their health so that eventually we will be able to develop interventions to prevent any ill effects that might be observed."

Researchers aim to include 400 women in the study and to assess the development of their infants after birth. Involvement is voluntary, and participants can decide to stop taking part at any point.

Participants will complete questionnaires and phone interviews and provide saliva samples. Women who complete all portions of the study will receive $60 to $85 compensation for their efforts.

The surveys ask about emotional experiences, social relationships, ways of coping with stress, pregnancy concerns, demographic information, and the impact of flooding. Phone interviews will involve questions about mood and feelings, appetite and eating habits, sleep habits, use of alcohol or drugs, physical symptoms, and recent life events that have affected participants' health. Saliva samples will be collected on two consecutive days to measure cortisol, an important stress hormone.

The researchers will request access to the medical records following delivery to evaluate pregnancy, labor and delivery outcomes, as well as the baby's gender, birth weight, gestational age at delivery, and APGAR score. All information collected for the study will be kept confidential using a coding system.

For more information on the study, call 319-335-0307 or 1-866-UIWOMEN (1-866-849-6636) or e-mail and mention the flood study.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Michael O'Hara, UI Department of Psychology, 319-335-2460,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,