Research demonstrates that stress during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for some pregnancy complications. Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy. Your body and your family are going through many changes. While a little stress is fine, serious stress may cause problems.
Causes of stress
The causes of stress are different for every woman. Some common causes of stress during pregnancy include:
- Managing the typical discomforts of pregnancy, such as nausea, constipation, and exhaustion.
- Mood swings. Your changing hormones can causes changes in your mood.
- Worries about childbirth and being a good mom.
- Work deadlines and managing job-related responsibilities before you give birth.
A little stress can help you take on new challenges and regular stress during pregnancy probably doesn’t add to pregnancy problems. But serious types of stress during pregnancy may increase your chances of certain complications.
Serious stress during pregnancy
While most women who experience significant stress during pregnancy have healthy babies, high levels of stress do increase your chances of certain pregnancy problems.
- Acute stress in early pregnancy has been linked with an increased risk for premature birth. Acute stress results from a reaction to a traumatic event, such as natural disasters, death of a loved one, or terrorist attacks.
- Chronic stress can cause complications such as preterm birth, low birthweight, hypertension and developmental delays in babies. Examples of events that can cause chronic stress include financial problems, divorce, serious health problems, or depression.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) disorder coupled with a major depressive disorder has been associated with an increased risk for preterm birth. PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have seen or lived through a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.
How does stress cause problems in pregnancy?
We don’t completely understand the effects of stress on pregnancy. But certain stress-related hormones, such as cortisol and norepinepherine, may play a role. Also, serious or long-lasting stress may affect your immune system, which protects you from infection. Infections can be a cause of premature birth.
Stress also may affect how you respond to certain situations. Some women deal with stress by smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking street drugs. These behaviors can lead to pregnancy problems, including preterm birth and low birthweight.