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UNMC to Study Post-birth Biopsychosocial Risk Factors


September 15, 2022 | View PDF

Gurudutt Pendyala, PhD, is studying whether biological, social and psychological issues may lead to health deficiencies and mortality in mothers and offspring.

Dr. Pendyala, associate professor in the UNMC Department of Anesthesiology, received $40,000 in funding from the Nebraska Research Initiative to study the biopsychosocial risk factors in the perinatal period.

Biopsychosocial risk factors are caused by the interplay of biological, social and psychological issues, which can lead to health deficiencies and mortality in mothers and offspring, Dr. Pendyala said.

“Currently, very little research exists evaluating the neurodevelopmental outcomes in offspring exposed to both biological and psychological risk factors amid social stressors,” he said.

There are layers of complexities surrounding the effects stressors have on maternal and perinatal health, Dr. Pendyala said. The risks women face during this phase of pregnancy often are assessed in biological terms, while the psychological and social risk factors are overlooked.

“Epigenetic changes, transgenerational trauma, mental illness, stress, racism and microaggressions contribute directly to health disparities. Additionally, nutritional concerns, increased stress and lack of social support can impact maternal and neonatal outcomes,” Dr. Pendyala said.

In collaboration with Ashley Blount, PhD, assistant professor in the University of Nebraska at Omaha Department of Counseling, Dr. Pendyala will use a biopsychosocial model to assess how these factors combine to directly influence maternal and infant wellbeing.

“There are few resources for mothers on the risk factors associated with the perinatal period,” Dr. Pendyala said. “Our studies aim to fill this important gap in knowledge. We will partner with health care providers across the Midwest to assess maternal biopsychosocial risk factors and continue developing our holistic model of care to address and limit risk factors to maternal health.”

Steven Lisco, MD, chair of the UNMC Department of Anesthesiology, said he was excited to see the new collaboration.

“Dr. Pendyala is a committed researcher and a superb mentor and collaborator,” Dr. Lisco said. “This research directly speaks to UNMC’s mission to improve the health of our fellow Nebraskans. Given rising depression in our younger generations, this work could have significant physical and behavioral health implications. The department congratulates him on this award and on this important project.”

The Nebraska Research Initiative is an investment by the State of Nebraska to provide a research base within the University of Nebraska to enhance economic growth in business and industry, agriculture, social services and health care.

We are Nebraska Medicine and UNMC. Our mission is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.


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