Cardiovascular and Metabolic Risk in Women in the First Year Postpartum: Allostatic Load as a Function of Race, Ethnicity, and Poverty Status

Madeleine U. Shalowitz*, Christine Dunkel Schetter, Marianne M. Hillemeier, Vernon M. Chinchilli, Emma K. Adam, Calvin J. Hobel, Sharon Landesman Ramey, Maxine Reed Vance, Patricia O'Campo, John M. Thorp, Teresa E. Seeman, Tonse N.K. Raju

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective Allostatic load (AL) represents multisystem physiological wear-and-tear reflecting emerging chronic disease risk. We assessed AL during the first year postpartum in a diverse community sample with known health disparities. Study Design The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Community Child Health Network enrolled 2,448 predominantly low-income African-American, Latina, and White women immediately after delivery of liveborn infants at ≥20 weeks' gestation, following them over time with interviews, clinical measures, and biomarkers. AL at 6 and 12 months postpartum was measured by body mass index, waist:hip ratio, blood pressure, pulse, hemoglobin A1c, high-sensitive C-reactive protein, total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein, and diurnal cortisol slope. Results Adverse AL health-risk profiles were significantly more prevalent among African-American women compared with non-Hispanic Whites, with Latinas intermediate. Breastfeeding was protective, particularly for White women. Complications of pregnancy were associated with higher AL, and disparities persisted or worsened through the first year postpartum. Conclusion Adverse AL profiles occurred in a substantial proportion of postpartum women, and disparities did not improve from birth to 1 year. Breastfeeding was protective for the mother.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1079-1089
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of perinatology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2019


  • allostatic load
  • cardiovascular risk
  • metabolic risk
  • postpartum health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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