Anxiety During Pregnancy Can Lead To Premature Births
Adapted from "Anxiety in Pregnancy and Length of Gestation: Findings From the Healthy Babies Before Birth Study", published in Health Psychology on September 26, 2022.
Previous research has found that up to 25% of pregnant women have clinically elevated anxiety symptoms and that anxiety can be a risk factor for preterm birth (delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
However, those studies have used a variety of measures of anxiety and have looked at both general anxiety and pregnancy-specific anxiety, which includes worries about childbirth, parenting, and the baby’s health. In the past, researchers also measured anxiety at different points in pregnancy, from early to late pregnancy and most often in the second trimester.
To sort out these various effects of timing and anxiety type, the current study examined data from 196 pregnant women. The researchers administered four anxiety screening tools to the women in the first and third trimesters of their pregnancies.
The researchers found that pregnancy-related anxiety in the third trimester was most strongly associated with earlier births. However, general anxiety in the first trimester also contributed to the risk of premature birth.
One possibility is that general anxiety early in pregnancy could predispose women to be anxious later in pregnancy about such issues as medical risks, the baby, labor and delivery, and parenting.
Although not all women who begin pregnancy with general anxiety symptoms will later experience pregnancy-specific anxiety, the study results suggest that women who follow this progression are likely to be at risk for premature delivery.
Pregnant women should be screened for general anxiety early in pregnancy, and women who score high should be monitored for increases in anxiety and possible intervention later in pregnancy.
There are many stress-reducing techniques. Some of them are listed here in alphabetical order:
- Practicing relaxation
- Self-help books
- Support/educational groups
- Taking on fewer tasks
- Taking time off from work
If you do not have a counselor, please visit bayivf.com/counseling for a list of therapists, most of whom have previously worked with Bay IVF patients.