Research: What can cause stress in pregnancy

Research highlights the need for doctors to screen for stress during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy

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Women who are stressed during pregnancy give birth earlier on average than those who are not, a new American scientific study shows. The research highlights the need for doctors to screen for anxiety – and not just depression as is more often the case – during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy.

The researchers, led by Dr. Christine Dunkel Setter of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who made the relevant publication in the journal "Health Psychology", studied nearly 200 pregnant women, who were assessed through questionnaires and psychological tests regarding their level of anxiety.

Previous studies have shown that approximately one in four pregnant women experience increased clinical symptoms of anxiety. The new study confirms that stress is a risk factor for preterm birth before the 37th week of pregnancy.

It has been found that pregnancy-related stress especially during the third trimester is the one most associated with preterm birth. But generalized anxiety during the first trimester also increases the risk of the baby being born prematurely.

Anxiety can be due to various current factors (medical risks of pregnancy, risks to the baby, the prospect of giving birth and becoming a parent, etc.) or to more permanent causes.

Source: RES-EAP