Stress and Birth Outcomes

At Cedars-Sinai, we also focus on the stress a woman may experience during her pregnancy. Delaying pregnancy until later in life and maintaining balance between careers, homemaking and caring for other children can all lead to increased stress for mothers-to-be.

Stress is associated with many adult diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, asthma and some infections. Studies have shown that stress impacts pregnancy, as well. The research shows that mothers who have a lot of stress have a higher risk of premature birth. Our research team has discovered that stress can cause changes as early as 13 weeks of pregnancy. This suggests that stress during early pregnancy or even before conception may lead to early delivery.

Unfortunately, many people cope with stress by engaging in unhealthy activities, which can have bad effects on the developing baby. Smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs are common, but unhealthy, coping tools. Stress can also lead to poor nutrition from fasting or skipping meals. Good nutrition, exercise, rest and leisurely pursuits lead to healthier babies.

Several studies have recently reported that major stress can cause early pregnancy problems and an increased risk of birth defects. In addition, a study of female lawyers showed that those who worked more than 40 hours per week had a greater risk of miscarriage.

At Cedars-Sinai, we help our patients recognize and manage stress in pregnancy to ensure a healthier mother and baby.