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"Life Course Health Development: “Think Nutrition First” featuring Marion Taylor Baer, PhD, RD and Dena R. Herman, PhD, MPH, RD. To Be Determined, 2019. REGISTER HERE.

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Pregnancy Characteristics and Women’s Cardiovascular Health

By Abigail Fraser, Janet M. Catov, Deborah A. Lawlor, and Janet W. Rich-Edwards

This is one of 26 chapters published in the Handbook of Life Course Health Development.   Abstract: Growing evidence indicates that women with a history of common pregnancy complications, including fetal growth restriction and preterm delivery (often combined as low birth weight), hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and gestational diabetes are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease later in life. Here we review the associations of parity and these four pregnancy complications with cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and the role of cardiovascular risk factors before, during, and after pregnancy complications in explaining these associations. We explore the implications of these findings for research in life course health science and policy intended to …

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Maternal health in pregnancy: A window into the future?

By Abigail Fraser

This webinar, part of the LCRN’s series based on the Handbook of Life Course Health Development, features Abigail Fraser, PhD.   Abigail Fraser is a Senior Research Fellow in Epidemiology at the University of Bristol, School of Social and Community Medicine. Her research examines the lifecourse epidemiology of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), insulin resistance, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD), as well as in women’s reproductive health and in the cross talk between the two. She studies the role maternal health in pregnancy (adiposity, weight gain and pregnancy complications) may play in shaping her own and her offspring’s long term cardiometabolic health; and she is exploring the role of epigenetics …

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Neural Plasticity in Fathers of Human Infants

By Pilyoung Kim, Paola Rigo, Linda C. Mayes, Ruth Feldman, James F. Leckman and James E. Swain

Fathering plays an important role in infants’ socioemotional and cognitive development. Previous studies have identified brain regions that are important for parenting behavior in human mothers. However, the neural basis of parenting in human fathers is largely unexplored. In the current longitudinal study, we investigated structural changes in fathers’ brains during the first four months postpartum using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analysis. Biological fathers (n=16) with full-term, healthy infants were scanned at 2–4 weeks postpartum (Time 1) and at 12–16 weeks postpartum (Time 2). Fathers exhibited increases in gray matter volume in several neural regions involved in parental motivation, including the hypothalamus, amygdala and striatum and lateral prefrontal cortex. On the …

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Maternal Stressful Life Events Prior to Conception and the Impact on Infant Birth Weight in the United States

By Whitney P. Witt, PhD, MPH, Erika R. Cheng, PhD, MPA, Lauren E. Wisk, PhD, Kristin Litzelman, PhD, Debanjana Chatterjee, MA, Kara Mandell, MA, and Fathima Wakeel, PhD, MPH

Objectives. We sought to determine if and to what extent a woman’s exposure to stressful life events prior to conception (PSLEs) were associated with subsequent infant birth weight by using a nationally representative sample of US women.   Methods. We examined 9350 mothers and infants participating in the first wave of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort in 2001. Weighted regressions estimated the effect of exposure on very low and low birth weight, adjusting for maternal sociodemographic and health factors and stress during pregnancy.   Results. Twenty percent of women experienced any PSLE. In adjusted analyses, exposed women were 38% more likely to have a very low birth weight …

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Pregnancy Characteristics and Women’s Future Cardiovascular Health: An Underused Opportunity to Improve Women’s Health?

By Janet W. Rich-Edwards, Abigail Fraser, Deborah A. Lawlor and Janet M. Catov

Growing evidence indicates that women with a history of common pregnancy complications, including fetal growth restriction and preterm delivery (often combined as low birth weight), hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and gestational diabetes, are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease later in life. The purpose of this paper was to review the associations of parity and these 4 pregnancy complications with cardiovascular morbidity and mortality; to review the role of cardiovascular risk factors before, during, and after pregnancy complications in explaining these associations; and to explore the implications of this emerging science for new research and policy. We systematically searched for relevant cohort and case-control studies in Medline through December 2012 …

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From infant to mother: early disease environment and future maternal health

By Douglas Almond, Janet Currie and Mariesa Herrmann

This paper examines the links between the disease environment around the time of a woman’s birth and her health at the time she delivers her own infant. Our results suggest that exposure to disease in early childhood significantly increases the incidence of diabetes in the population of future mothers. The exposed mothers are less likely to be married, have fewer years of education, are more likely to gain over 60 pounds while pregnant and are more likely to smoke while pregnant. Not surprisingly then, exposure increases the probability of low birth weight in the next generation, at least among whites. Among whites, this effect remains when we control for maternal …

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The Plasticity of Human Maternal Brain: Longitudinal Changes in Brain Anatomy During the Early Postpartum Period

By Pilyoung Kim, James F. Leckman, Linda C. Mayes, Ruth Feldman, Xin Wang, James E. Swain

Animal studies suggest that structural changes occur in the maternal brain during the early postpartum period in regions such as the hypothalamus, amygdala, parietal lobe, and prefrontal cortex and such changes are related to the expression of maternal behaviors. In an attempt to explore this in humans, we conducted a prospective longitudinal study to examine gray matter changes using voxel-based morphometry on high resolution magnetic resonance images of mothers’ brains at two time points: 2–4 weeks postpartum and 3–4 months postpartum. Comparing gray matter volumes across these two time points, we found increases in gray matter volume of the prefrontal cortex, parietal lobes, and midbrain areas. Increased gray matter volume …

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Achieving safe motherhood: applying a life course and multiple determinants perinatal health framework in public health

By Dita P. Misra and Holly Grason

Safe motherhood has begun to be identified as a priority for the health of American women. We argue that safe motherhood can be achieved through application of a life course and multiple determinants framework. This framework, with its focus on the preconception period, poses a dilemma in that it links together periods of life and domains of activities that have traditionally not been linked with maternal health. The interests of women and children have often been juxtaposed in the making of policy. Further, the domains of women’s health, maternal and child health, and family planning have often clashed over policy priorities and funds. This framework shows that the research literature …

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Psychosocial stress and neuroendocrine mechanisms in preterm delivery

By JW Rich-Edwards and TA Grizzard

This review focuses on the contribution of psychosocial stress to the racial/ethnic disparities in preterm delivery in the United States and addresses the subset of psychosocial stressors that are disproportionately prevalent among minority women. We argue that chronic exposure to poverty, racism, and insecure neighborhoods may condition stress responses and physiologic changes in ways that increase the risk of preterm delivery. Cumulative stressors may impact pregnancy outcomes through several intersecting pathways, which include neuroendocrine, behavioral, immune, and vascular mechanisms. Many of these pathways also lead to chronic disease. It may be useful to consider preterm delivery as a chronic disease with roots in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Like other …

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Black/white differences in the relationship of maternal age to birthweight: a population-based test of the weathering hypothesis

By AT Geronimus

This study seeks to explore if early health deterioration (‘weathering’) among young adult African American women contributes to observed increases with maternal age in the black/white disparity in birth outcome. Theoretically, ‘weathering’ is constructed as being a physical consequence of social inequality. Thus, we also examine whether African American mothers vary in their age trajectories of poor birth outcome with respect to social class. Black or white singleton first births to Michigan residents aged 15-34 in 1989 (N = 54,888 births) are analyzed, using data drawn from linked birth and infant death certificates augmented with census-based economic information. We find among blacks, but not whites, advancing maternal age above 15 …

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