Can social support during pregnancy affect maternal DNA methylation? Findings from a cohort of African-Americans

Pamela J. Surkan, Xiumei Hong, Boyang Zhang, Nobutoshi Nawa, Hongkai Ji, Wan Yee Tang, Yuelong Ji, Mary C. Kimmel, Guoying Wang, Colleen Pearson, Xiaobin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: While stress and the absence of social support during pregnancy have been linked to poor health outcomes, the underlying biological mechanisms are unclear. Methods: We examined whether adverse experiences during pregnancy alter DNA methylation (DNAm) in maternal epigenomes. Analyses included 250 African-American mothers from the Boston Birth Cohort. Genome-wide DNAm profiling was performed in maternal blood collected after delivery, using the Infinium HumanMethylation450 Beadchip. Linear regression models, with adjustment of pertinent covariates, were applied. Results: While self-reported maternal psychosocial lifetime stress and stress during pregnancy was not associated with DNAm alterations, we found that absence of support from the baby’s father was significantly associated with maternal DNAm changes in TOR3A, IQCB1, C7orf36, and MYH7B and that lack of support from family and friends was associated with maternal DNA hypermethylation on multiple genes, including PRDM16 and BANKL. Conclusions: This study provides intriguing results suggesting biological embedding of social support during pregnancy on maternal DNAm, warranting additional investigation, and replication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-138
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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