Anxiety is very common during pregnancy. In fact, in some women it is even more common than depression. According to a recent research published by the American Psychological Association, women who experience anxiety about or during their pregnancies give birth earlier on average than those who do not.
The study examined the link between pregnancy length and different measures of anxiety. This method could in turn help doctors in understanding when and how one should screen for anxiety during pregnancy to help in preventing preterm birth of the child.
The study was published in the journal Health Psychology. Lead study author Christine Dunkel Schetter, PhD, of the University of California Los Angeles said, “Anxiety about a current pregnancy is a potent psychosocial state that may affect birth outcomes.” These days, depressive symptoms are assessed in many clinic settings around the world to prevent complications of postpartum depression for both mothers and children. This and other studies suggest that we should also be assessing anxiety in pregnant women.”
A previous research also suggests that one in four pregnant women clinically experience anxiety symptoms and that anxiety can be a risk factor for preterm birth. To come to a definite conclusion , the researchers examined data from 196 pregnant women who took part in the Healthy Babies Before Birth study. The researchers administered four different anxiety scales to the women, (in the first and the third trimesters of their pregnancies). They found that participants’ scores on all three scales of pregnancy-related anxiety were interrelated.
They also found that pregnancy-related anxiety in the third trimester was most strongly linked with earlier births. However, general anxiety in the first trimester also contributed to risk for early birth of the child.
“Even though not all women who begin pregnancy with general anxiety symptoms will later experience pregnancy-specific anxiety. However, our results suggest that women who do follow this pregnancy pattern are likely to be at an increased risk for earlier delivery,” Dunkel Schetter said.
“The increasing precision in our understanding of both the risks and mechanisms of the effects of pregnancy anxiety on gestational length can in turn help in improving the ability to develop, test and implement interventions in order to address the pressing public health issue of preterm birth,” she concluded.