Preterm birth represents the most significant problem in maternal-child health, with maternal stress identified as a variable of interest. The effects of maternal stress on risk of preterm birth may vary as a function of context. This article focuses on select key issues and questions highlighting the need to develop a better understanding of which particular subgroups of pregnant women may be especially vulnerable to the potentially detrimental effects of maternal stress, and under what circumstances and at which stages of gestation. Issues related to the characterization and assessment of maternal stress and candidate biologic mechanisms are addressed.
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