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Stress not linked to pre-eclampsia risk

Stress during pregnancy does not increase a woman's risk of developing gestational hypertension or a serious complication known as pre-eclampsia.

Stress not linked to pre-eclampsia risk

Stress in the first half of pregnancy may be unhealthy, but it does not increase a woman's risk of developing gestational hypertension (high blood pressure during pregnancy) or a serious complication known as pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a condition of pregnancy characterised by high blood pressure and swelling of the feet while gestational hypertension is high blood pressure during pregnancy. Both these disorders are collectively known as hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and can harm the mother's kidneys and other organs, and also cause low birth weight and early delivery. While the exact cause of these disorders is unclear, possible causes include insufficient blood flow to the uterus, immune dysfunction or a poor diet, though some studies have also suggested stress as a factor. To investigate the association of pre-eclampsia and gestational hypertension with psychosocial stress in the first half of pregnancy, Dutch researchers studied 3,679 women who were pregnant for the first time, out of which nearly four per cent had developed pre-eclampsia and more than four per cent had gestational hypertension. All the women filled out a questionnaire measuring their stress levels before 24 weeks of pregnancy. Surprisingly, no relationship was found between a woman's level of job stress, anxiety, anxiety related to pregnancy or depression and her risk of developing pre-eclampsia or gestational hypertension. The findings suggest that stress does not contribute to pre-eclampsia or gestational hypertension. So, women who have or have had pre-eclampsia, and especially those women with a baby that was born too early because of pre-eclampsia or a baby that died, have no reason to feel guilty thinking that if they had less stress at work or at home they could have saved the baby. But at the same time, women should try to avoid stress during pregnancy for their own health.
BJOG,
April 2008
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