February 21, 2006

Mother’s stress linked to early miscarriage

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Pregnant women who experience
stress in the first few weeks of pregnancy appear to have an
increased risk of miscarriage, according to findings from a
small study of women in Guatemala.

Maternal stress is often considered a risk factor for
miscarriage, yet data supporting this association are lacking,
lead author Dr. Pablo A. Nepomnaschy, from the National
Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina,
and colleagues note.

Previous studies looking at this topic may have failed to
identify a link because they focused on women at least 6 weeks
after their last menstrual period. By contrast, most
miscarriages occur earlier in pregnancy, usually within three
weeks of conception.

In the study reported in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences Early Edition, levels of the stress hormone
cortisol levels were measured in the urine during the first 3
weeks of 22 pregnancies. Thirteen of the pregnancies eventually
ended in miscarriage, usually within a few days after the first
missed period.

Women with cortisol levels that were higher than normal
were nearly three times more likely to experience a miscarriage
than women without increased cortisol levels.

The researchers suggest that pregnancy may be particularly
sensitive to maternal stress during the early period when the
embryo is attaching to the mother's womb.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA