Stress and pregnancy among African-American women

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2000 Apr;14(2):127-35. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-3016.2000.00257.x.


Research on stress tends to support an adverse effect on pregnancy outcomes, and suggests that the impact of these stressors is modified by social class and/or race. This study explicitly examined social factors such as experiences of discrimination, either racial or sexual, and neighbourhood crime as predictors of stress. We also examined cortisol and stress as predictors of blood pressure. A subsample of 94 African-American pregnant women, aged 18-39 years, who were enrolled in a longitudinal study of pregnancy and exposure to lead in the environment were used in this analysis. The women were patients at an obstetrics clinic at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Younger age, higher income, lower education and experiences of discrimination, both racial and sexual, were related to greater perceived stress; however, life events were not related to perceived stress. Higher income and urinary cortisol adjusted for creatinine were related to systolic blood pressure after the 36th week. As a body of evidence suggests that stress can have deleterious effects in both pregnant and non-pregnant women, future research should examine these forms of discrimination, especially racial discrimination, as a possible reason for the disparity in adverse pregnancy outcomes between African-American and white women.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Pennsylvania
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / ethnology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Prejudice
  • Psychological Tests
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology