How do stress and anxiety contribute to preterm delivery?
Research shows that stress and anxiety can contribute to preterm delivery.
While the exact mechanisms for these associations are unknown, it is thought that high levels of stress and anxiety can trigger high blood pressure or chronic hypertension, which has been shown to be a risk factor for preterm delivery.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is when the force of your blood pushing against your artery walls is consistently too high. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States. Hypertension can also lead to other health problems, such as chronic kidney disease and vision loss.
In addition to being associated with hypertension, stress and anxiety are both linked to higher levels of catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenaline); increased secretion of these hormones has been shown to induce preterm birth in rodents.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a condition characterized by excessive worry about multiple life stressors that persists for 6 months or more, has been linked to obstetric complications such as spontaneous abortion, eclampsia, preeclampsia and preterm labor. In addition, social anxiety disorder (SAD) has been associated with childbirth complications such as postpartum depression.