University of Oulu

Voit FAC, Kajantie E, Lemola S, Räikkönen K, Wolke D, Schnitzlein DD (2022) Maternal mental health and adverse birth outcomes. PLoS ONE 17(8): e0272210.

Maternal mental health and adverse birth outcomes

Saved in:
Author: Voit, Falk A. C.1; Kajantie, Eero2,3,4; Lemola, Sakari5,6;
Organizations: 1Institute of Labour Economics, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Hannover, Germany
2Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Helsinki, Finland
3PEDEGO Research Unit, MRC Oulu, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
4Department of Clinical and Molecular Medicine, Norwegian University for Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
5Fakultät für Psychologie und Sportwissenschaft, Universität Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany
6Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
7Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
8IZA Institute of Labor Economics, Bonn, Germany
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Public Library of Science, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-02-22


Recent research in economics emphasizes the role of in utero conditions for the health endowment at birth and in early childhood and for social as well as economic outcomes in later life. This paper analyzes the relation between maternal mental health during pregnancy and birth outcomes of the child. In particular, we analyze the relationship between maternal mental health during pregnancy and the probability of giving birth preterm (PT), having a newborn at low birth weight (LBW) or being small for gestational age (SGA). Based on large population-representative data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) and cohort data from the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), we present extensive descriptive evidence on the relationship between maternal mental health and preterm birth by carrying out OLS estimates controlling for a wide range of socioeconomic characteristics. In addition, we apply matching estimators and mother fixed effects models, which bring us closer toward a causal interpretation of estimates. In summary, the results uniformly provide evidence that poor maternal mental health is a risk factor for preterm birth and low birth weight in offspring. In contrast, we find no evidence for an relationship between maternal mental health and small for gestational age at birth.

see all

Series: PLoS one
ISSN: 1932-6203
ISSN-E: 1932-6203
ISSN-L: 1932-6203
Volume: 17
Issue: 8
Article number: e0272210
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0272210
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3123 Gynaecology and paediatrics
Funding: The research was funded by the New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Cooperation in Europe (NORFACE), for Life Course Dynamics after Preterm Birth: Protective Factors for Social and Educational Transitions, Health, and Prosperity (PremLife), under grant number 462-16-040. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Dataset Reference: The NEPS data could be accessed as highly anonymized Scientific Use File after filling and signing the required Data Use Agreement and sending it to the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories. The data is accessible to scientists fulfilling the requirements of the national education panel study (NEPS) after concluding a Data Use Agreement with the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories. The NEPS data for the Starting Cohort of Newborns (SC1) could be accessed via doi: 10.5157/NEPS:SC1:6.0.0. The contact details, all required documents and a short explanation on how to access NEPS data is provided at the following URL: The scientific use file of the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) is made available for scientific research by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) at doi: 10.5684/soep.v34. The use of anonymized SOEP data is subject to strict standards in the data provision and are reserved exclusively for research use. SOEP data are available free of charge as scientific use files after requesting a data distribution contract with DIW. The form is available online: In addition to that a data protection form needs to be signed beforehand. This can be found at: The data underlying this study are owned by third party sources and can be accessed following the instructions in the Data section & the supplementary files.
Copyright information: © 2022 Voit et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.