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High Stress, Low Support can Lead to Pregnancy Complications

Madison, Wisconsin - Pregnant women who experience greater stress, compared to their internal and social resources, are more likely to face poor pregnancy and birth outcomes, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.


Dr. Fathima Wakeel, a postdoctoral fellow in health disparities research, looked at pregnancy and birth outcomes from 3,353 mothers in the 2007 Los Angeles Mommy and Baby (LAMB) study. She and co-authors created the “stress-to-capital ratio,” which represents the level of balance between stress and “personal capital,” a set of internal resources (such as self-esteem and mastery, or a sense of control over circumstances) and social resources (such as partner support, social network support, and neighborhood support) that may help women better cope with stress during pregnancy.


They found that women whose stress exceeded their personal capital during pregnancy were much more likely to have at least one pregnancy complication, a pre-term birth, or a baby with a lower gestational age. The stress-to-capital ratio was not associated with babies’ birth weight or size accounting for gestational age.


“Our study underscores the importance of recognizing that both risks and resources coexist in women’s lives and likely impact each other,” says Wakeel. “Therefore, we need to address both women’s stress and personal capital during pregnancy in order to improve obstetric outcomes and long-term maternal and child health outcomes.”


Wakeel’s co-authors are Drs. Whitney P. Witt and Lauren E. Wisk of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health's Department of Population Health Sciences, Dr. Rebekah Gee of the Louisiana State School of Public Health, and Dr. Shin M. Chao of the Los Angeles County Department of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Programs. The study was published in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health.

Date Published: 07/02/2013

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High Stress, Low Support can Lead to Pregnancy Complications

Last updated: 07/02/2013
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