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Stress in pregnancy may cause stillbirth

Women who are under high psychological stress during pregnancy may have an increased risk of stillbirth.

Stress in pregnancy may cause stillbirth

Women who are under high psychological stress during pregnancy may have an increased risk of stillbirth. Several studies have shown conflicting results regarding the relation of stress and the harms it causes to the fetus. To study the association between psychological stress during pregnancy and stillbirth, Danish researchers analysed 19,282 singleton pregnancies in women over a period of ten years. Information about psychological stress during pregnancy was obtained from questionnaires and measured by the 12-item General Health Questionnaires. The scores of 0–6 were defined as a low level of psychological stress, 7-11 as intermediate stress and scores of 12–36 as the highest level. There were 66 stillbirths (3.4‰) in the population studied. Compared with women with an intermediate level of psychological stress during pregnancy, women with a high level of stress were found to have an 80% increased risk of stillbirth. Adjustment for maternal age, parity, maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index, smoking habits, alcohol and caffeine intake during pregnancy, education and cohabitation failed to change the result. The findings corroborate that psychological stress during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of stillbirth. However, since this study is the first of its kind, further research is needed to establish that stress during pregnancy could prove fatal for the child.
BJOG
June 2008
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