While no one enjoys moving house at the best of times, new research suggests that if you're in the early stages of pregnancy, you should avoid doing it at all.
According to US research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, women who move house during the first three months of pregnancy have a higher risk of premature birth, and their babies of having a low birth weight.
Researchers from the University of Washington analysed birth certificate data for babies born in Washington between 2007 and 2014. They randomly selected 30,000 women who had moved during the first three months of pregnancy and matched them with 120,000 randomly selected women of the same birth year, who hadn't moved house during their first trimester.
The first trimester was chosen because previous research has suggested that major stressors during early pregnancy have a greater impact on the health of your baby than those experienced later on in the pregnancy.
While women who moved early in pregnancy were also likely to have smoked during their pregnancy, be younger, unmarried, less well educated, live in areas with lower average household incomes and to have had other children than women who hadn't moved, researchers found that even after taking all of these extra risk factors into consideration the women who had moved were still more likely to have premature babies or babies with lower birth weights.
A house move during the first three months of pregnancy was associated with a 37 per cent heightened risk of low birth weight and a 42 per cent heightened risk of premature birth compared with those who didn't move during this period.
A house move in the first trimester was also associated with a slightly increased (9 per cent) risk of giving birth to a smaller than expected size baby.
This was seen across women in all social and economic strata.
The researchers weren't able to explore the potential reasons behind their findings, but suggested that interruptions to healthcare, the physical strain of moving, disruptions to social support, and a biological stress reaction may all be possible triggers.
If you can't avoid moving, at least get the right support around you when you do, they suggest.
The advice that more experienced mothers often impart to new parents is 'don't be afraid to ask for help'. It seems this advice also needs to be heeded before the baby is born, for the best possible outcome.
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