Pregnancy-specific stress, preterm birth, and gestational age among high-risk young women

Health Psychol. 2014 Sep;33(9):1033-45. doi: 10.1037/a0034586. Epub 2014 Jan 20.


Objective: There is evidence that pregnancy-specific stress is associated with preterm birth. The purpose of this study is to examine the association between change in pregnancy-specific stress over the course of pregnancy and birth outcomes (i.e., preterm birth and gestational age) in an understudied but vulnerable group using a theoretically derived model.

Methods: Multivariate linear and logistic regression techniques were used to examine the association between pregnancy-specific stress (measured in second and third trimester) and length of gestation (i.e., preterm birth and gestational age) among a sample of 920 Black and/or Latina adolescent and young women.

Results: Second trimester pregnancy-specific stress was not associated with preterm birth or gestational age. Third trimester pregnancy-specific stress was associated with preterm birth but not with gestational age. Change in pregnancy-specific stress between second and third trimester was significantly associated with increased likelihood of preterm delivery and shortened gestational age, even after controlling for important biological, behavioral, psychological, interpersonal, and sociocultural risk factors.

Conclusions: Findings emphasize the importance of measuring pregnancy-specific stress across pregnancy, as the longitudinal change from second to third trimester was significantly associated with length of gestation measured both as a dichotomous variable (preterm birth) and a continuous variable (gestational age). Furthermore, this is the first study to observe the association of pregnancy-specific stress with length of gestation in this understudied population-unique in age, race, and ethnicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Black or African American
  • Connecticut / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Georgia / epidemiology
  • Gestational Age
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / ethnology
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome / ethnology
  • Pregnancy Outcome / psychology*
  • Premature Birth / ethnology
  • Premature Birth / etiology*
  • Premature Birth / psychology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Young Adult