NEW YORK -- Women who are particularly anxious about their
pregnancy may be at increased risk of premature delivery, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that among 1,820 pregnant women, those with the greatest
concerns about their pregnancy were nearly three times more likely than those
with the least anxiety to deliver prematurely. The findings are published in the
journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
Stress during pregnancy has been linked to a higher risk of complications in
some studies, though not all. And those that have identified a link have not
suggested any simple solutions to the problem.
For the current study, researchers looked specifically at women's worries
related to their pregnancy -- including anxiety over labour and delivery, and
worries about early pregnancy problems like bleeding and nausea. The goal was to
see whether the risk of preterm birth was influenced by the types of anxiety
that obstetricians can fairly easily address.
For example, a woman's fears about labour might be allayed by a thorough
discussion with her doctor, according to the study authors, led by Dr. Suezanne
T. Orr of East Carolina University.
For their study, the researchers had 1,820 women complete a questionnaire on
pregnancy worries during their first visit for prenatal care. The women were
asked whether they were anxious about labour and delivery, the health of the
baby, nausea, and pain or bleeding during early pregnancy.
They were then given anxiety "scores" ranging from 0 to 6. Overall, Orr's team
found, women who scored a 5 or 6 were at greater risk of preterm delivery than
those with lower scores. This remained true when the researchers considered
factors that could both fuel women's anxiety and raise the risk of preterm birth
-- such as a history of problems in past pregnancies, or health problems during
the current pregnancy.
The findings suggest that excessive anxiety itself may contribute to premature
delivery in some women, according to Orr and her colleagues.
"If additional research confirms our findings," they write, "then this might
suggest an avenue for intervention to reduce spontaneous preterm birth. Anxiety
is a treatable condition."
They point out that pregnancy-related worries, in particular, can be addressed
Source : The Edmonton Journal 2007