The association between prenatal stress and infant birth weight and gestational age at birth: a prospective investigation

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1993 Oct;169(4):858-65. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(93)90016-c.


Objective: The aim was to test a model of the influence of maternal prenatal psychosocial stress on birth outcomes after controlling for biomedical risk.

Study design: In a prospective study a sociodemographically homogeneous sample of 90 women was assessed during the third trimester with standard, reliable questionnaires that measured episodic and chronic stress, strain (response to stress), and pregnancy-related anxiety. Birth outcomes included infant birth weight, gestational age at birth, and intrapartum complications. Parity and biomedical (antepartum) risk was also coded. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were performed after controlling for the effects of biomedical risk factors.

Results: Independent of biomedical risk, each unit increase of prenatal life event stress (from a possible sample range of 14.7 units) was associated with a 55.03 gm decrease in infant birth weight and with a significant increase in the likelihood of low birth weight (odds ratio 1.32), and each unit increase of prenatal pregnancy anxiety (from a possible sample range of 5 units) was associated with a 3-day decrease in gestational age at birth.

Conclusion: Independent of biomedical risk, maternal prenatal stress factors are significantly associated with infant birth weight and with gestational age at birth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Apgar Score
  • Birth Weight*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*