Psychosocial Stress and Pregnancy

  • Paul A. Hensleigh
  • Elizabeth L. Brown


Psychosocial stress during pregnancy may be measured and thus defined in various ways. We refer to stress as an event or situation that causes change in a person’s daily life and that generally is perceived as threatening to him/her, either physically or psychologically. The perception may be positive or negative, though that which is perceived as negative seems to have more of an impact on the individual. Major life events such as divorce or the death of a child require adaptation on the part of the individual, and standard measures have been developed that provide indices of the intensity of the stress imposed on a person by the occurrence of these events. The daily problems or “hassles” of life also contribute to an individual’s stress. Psychological or environmental problems such as marital discord, lack of a partner, or insufficient financial resources are sources of such chronic psychosocial stress.


Fetal Growth Psychosocial Stress Sexual Attitude Maternal Anxiety Marital Discord 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Spielberger CD, Jacobs GH: Stress and anxiety during pregnancy and labor. Clin Psychoneuroendocrinol Reprod 22: 261–269, 1978Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Nucholls KB, Cassel J, Kaplan BH: Psychological assets, life crises and the prognosis of pregnancy. Am J Epidemiol 95: 41–441, 1971Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lubin B, Gardner SH, Roth A: Mood and somatic symptoms during pregnancy. Psychosom Med 37: 136–146, 1975PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Norbeck JS, Tilden VP: Life stress, social support, and emotional disequilibrium in complications of pregnancy: A prospective, multivariate study. J Health Soc Behav 24: 30–46, 1983PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Gorsuch RL, Key MK: Abnormalities of pregnancy as a function of anxiety and life stress. Psychosom Med 36: 352–362, 1974PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Picone TA, Allen LH, Olsen PN, et al: Pregnancy outcome in North American women. II. Effects of diet, cigarette smoking, stress and weight gain on the placenta, neonatal physical and behavioral characteristics. Am J Clin Nutr 36: 1214–1224, 1982PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Picone TA, Lindsay HA, Schramm MM, et al: Pregnancy outcome in North American women. I. Effects of diet, cigarette smoking and psychological stress on maternal weight gain. Am J Clin Nutr 3: 1205–1213, 1982Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Makara GB, Palkovitz M, Szentagothai J: The endocrine hypothalamus and the hormonal response to stress, in Selye H (ed): Selye’s Guide to Stress Research, vol I. New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1980, pp 280–337Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ursin H, Baade E, Levine S (eds): Psychobiology of Stress. A study of Coping in Man. London, Academic Press, 1978Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Adams FH, Assali N, Cashman M, et al: Interrelationships of maternal fetal circulations. I. Flow pressure responses to vasoactive drugs in sheep. Pediatrics 27: 627–635, 1961PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Greiss FC, Gabble LL: Effect of sympathetic nerve stimulation on the uterine vascular bed. Am J Obstet Gynecol 97: 962–967, 1967PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Adamsons K, Muller-Heubach E, Meyers RE: Production of fetal asphyxia in rhesus monkey by administration of catecholamines to the mother. Am J Obstet Gynecol 109: 248–262, 1971PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Rosenfeld CR, Barton MD, Meschia G: Effects of epinephrine on distribution of blood flow in the pregnant ewe. Am J Obstet Gynecol 124: 156–163, 1976PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Rosenfeld CR, West J: Circulatory response to systemic infusion on norepinephrine in the pregnant ewe. Am J Obstet Gynecol 127: 376–383, 1977PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Myers RE: Production of fetal asphysia by maternal psychological stress. Pavlov J Biol Sci 12: 5162, 1977Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ward IL: Prenatal stress feminizes and demasculinizes the behavior of males. Science 175: 82–84, 1972PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Newton RW, Webster PAC, Binu PS, et al: Psychosocial stress in pregnancy and its relation to the onset of preterm labor. Br Med J 2: 411–413, 1979PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Lederman RP: The relationship of maternal anxiety, plasma catecholamines, and plasma cortisol to progress in labor. Am J Obster Gynecol 132: 495–500, 1978Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Tulchinsky D, Ryan KJ (eds): Maternal-Fetal Endocrinology. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 1980Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Liggins GC, Fairclough RS, Grieves SA, et al: The mechanism of initiation of parturition in the ewe. Recent Prog Horm Res 29: 111–160, 1973PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Liggins GC, Howie RN: A controlled trial of antepartum betamethasone therapy for prevention of respiratory distress syndrome in premature infants. Pediatrics 50: 515–525, 1972PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Giannopoulos G: Early events in the action of glucocorticoids in developing tissues. J Steroid Biochem 6: 623–631, 1975PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Greengard O: Enzymatic differentiation in mammalian tissues. Essays Biochem 6: 159–205, 1971Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Epstein MF, Farrell PM, Sparks JN, et al: Maternal betamethasone and fetal growth and development in the monkey. Am J Obstet Gynecol 127: 261–263, 1977PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    McArther BA, Howie RN, Dezoete JA, et al: Cognitive and psychosocial development of 4-year-old children whose mothers were treated antenatally with betamethasone. Pediatrics 68: 638–643, 1981Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Crandontt AJ: Maternal anxiety and neonatal wellbeing. J Psychosom Res 23: 113–115, 1979CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Crandon AJ: Maternal anxiety and obstetric complications. J Psychosom Res 23: 109–111, 1979PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Stott DH: Follow-up study from birth of the effects of prenatal stresses. Dev Med Child Neurol 15: 770–787, 1973PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul A. Hensleigh
  • Elizabeth L. Brown

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations