Anxiety during pregnancy can lead to earlier births

Summary: Women who experience anxiety during pregnancy are more likely to give birth earlier than women who don’t.

Source: WHAT

According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, women who are anxious about their pregnancy give birth on average earlier than others.

The study, which looked at the relationship between length of pregnancy and different measures of anxiety, could help doctors understand when and how best to screen for anxiety during pregnancy to help prevent premature births.

“Anxiety about an ongoing pregnancy is a powerful psychosocial state that can affect birth outcomes,” said study lead author Christine Dunkel Schetter, PhD, of the University of California. in Los Angeles.

“These days, depressive symptoms are assessed in many clinics around the world to prevent complications of postpartum depression in mothers and children. This study and others suggest that we should also assess anxiety in pregnant women.

The study was published in the journal Health Psychology.

Previous research has shown that up to one in four pregnant women have clinically elevated symptoms of anxiety and that anxiety may be a risk factor for preterm labor or birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

However, these studies used a variety of anxiety measures and looked at both general anxiety and pregnancy-specific anxiety, which includes worries about childbirth, parenthood, and the health of the baby.

Researchers also measured anxiety at different times during pregnancy, from early to late pregnancy and most often in the second trimester.

To sort out these different timing and anxiety-like effects, the researchers looked at data from a diverse sample of 196 pregnant women in Denver and Los Angeles who participated in the Healthy Babies Before Birth study. Forty-five percent of the women identified as non-Hispanic white, 36% as Hispanic white, 10% as Asian, and 9% as black or African American.

The researchers administered four different anxiety scales to the women in both the first and third trimesters of their pregnancy. One was a five-item screening test for general anxiety and three were pregnancy-specific: a 10-item scale and a four-item pregnancy anxiety scale, and a nine-item assessment a wider range of pregnancy-related stressors, such as medical care and worries about caring for a newborn.

The researchers found that the participants’ scores on the three pregnancy-related anxiety scales were interrelated, suggesting that the scales are measuring the same underlying thing.

They also found that pregnancy-related anxiety in the third trimester was more strongly associated with early births. However, general anxiety during the first trimester also contributed to the risk of early delivery.

One possibility, researchers say, is that general anxiety early in pregnancy could predispose women to be anxious later in pregnancy about issues such as medical risks, the baby, labor, and pregnancy. childbirth, and parenthood.

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This shows the outline of a head and a brain
It shows a pregnant woman
Previous research has shown that up to one in four pregnant women have clinically elevated symptoms of anxiety and that anxiety may be a risk factor for preterm labor or birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Image is in public domain

The results held even when adjusted for the actual medical risk of the women’s pregnancies.

“Although not all women who begin pregnancy with symptoms of general anxiety will later experience pregnancy-specific anxiety, our results suggest that women who follow this progression are likely to be at particularly high risk of giving birth. earlier,” Dunkel Schetter said.

The findings suggest doctors should screen women for general anxiety early in pregnancy, she added, just as they typically screen for depression, and that women who score high could be monitored for a increased anxiety and possible intervention later in pregnancy.

Further research should continue to explore why pregnancy anxiety is linked to the timing of birth, including stress-related neuroendocrine changes, inflammation and health behaviors, according to Dunkel Schetter.

“Increasing precision in our understanding of the risks and mechanisms of the effects of pregnancy anxiety on gestational length may improve our ability to develop, test and implement interventions to address the pressing public health problem of premature birth,” she said.

About This Anxiety and Pregnancy Research News

Author: Leah Winerman
Source: WHAT
Contact: Lea Winerman – APA
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: The findings will appear in Health Psychology

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