Chronic Stress in Pregnancy Is Associated with Low Birth Weight: A Meta-Analysis

J Clin Med. 2023 Dec 14;12(24):7686. doi: 10.3390/jcm12247686.


Background and objectives: Chronic activation of the stress system has cumulative effects on the body, and it places individuals at risk for adverse health outcomes. Chronic stress has been assessed by health questionnaires in pregnancy. During the perinatal period, mothers experience increased physical and emotional demands. Chronic stress interferes with hormonal functions in mothers and infants. This meta-analysis studies the effect of maternal chronic stress during pregnancy, as assessed by established stress questionnaires, on the birth weight of their full-term infants.

Design and methods: According to our criteria and after research collection, we obtained 107 studies and we conducted two types of analyses: a logistic (N = 22,342) and linear regression analysis (N = 7431).

Results: Our results show that chronic stress is associated with a statistically significant risk of low birth weight (OR = 1.50, CI 95% = [1.13; 1.99], p ≤ 0.02).

Conclusions: Increased maternal chronic stress, as assessed by questionnaires, in pregnancy is associated with a low-birth-weight baby. The above meta-analysis indicates that maternal high chronic stress questionnaire scores could be used as a clinical tool in order to assess low-birth-weight risk.

Keywords: birth weight; chronic stress; perinatal period; pregnancy; stress questionnaires.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.