Prenatal Stress and Outlook Affects Birth Outcomes in High-Risk Pregnancies

Lobel M, DeVincent CJ, Kaminer A, Meyer BA. The impact of prenatal maternal stress and optimistic disposition on birth outcomes in medically high-risk women. Health Psychology. 2000;19:544-553.

Evidence suggests that prenatal maternal stress adversely affects birth outcomes. Nurse researchers followed 129 high-risk pregnant women, aged 20-43 years, to study the effect of chronic stress and life disposition on the rate of premature delivery. Participants completed a series of questionnaires at 3 points during their pregnancy to assess perceived stress, anxiety level, pregnancy-specific distress, prenatal life events, health behaviors, and disposition. Medical risk factors and birth outcomes were derived from patient chart data. The results showed that women with a pessimistic disposition experienced more stress during their pregnancy and delivered infants of lower birth weight. While stress level alone did not seem to affect the outcomes, it may contribute to a pessimistic outlook. Optimism, on the opposite end of the outlook scale, involves positive thinking and planning. Optimistic women reported more regular exercise and other health behaviors linked to more positive birth outcomes. The researchers conclude that disposition may affect maternal and fetal health as much as ethnicity or medical risk.

Acupuncture can help relieve stress and improve mental outlook!