The effect of anxiety and depression during pregnancy on obstetric complications

Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1993 Jul;100(7):629-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.1993.tb14228.x.


Objective: To investigate the effects of anxiety and depression during pregnancy on obstetric complications using the data collected from the St George's Birthweight Study.

Design: Prospective population study.

Setting: District general hospital in inner London.

Subjects: A consecutive series of 1860 white women booking for delivery were approached. Of these, 136 refused and 209 failed to complete the study for other reasons, leaving a sample of 1515.

Main outcome measure: Data were obtained by research interviewers at booking, 17, 28, and 36 weeks gestation and from the structured antenatal and obstetric record. The predictor variables were the anxiety and depression scores measured using the General Health Questionnaire. The outcome variables were five obstetric complications: preterm delivery; nonspontaneous onset of labour; major analgesia in the first and second stages of labour; and nonspontaneous vaginal deliveries. The possible confounding effects of 35 socio-economic, psychological and personal variables were investigated using logistic regression.

Results: The factors that had the strongest relation with the outcomes were parity and maternal age. Depression during pregnancy was unrelated to the obstetric complications. Anxiety was weakly related to analgesia/anaesthesia in the second stage of labour (P = 0.04). However, anxiety accounted for only 0.1% of the variance in use of major analgesia/anaesthesia. The most effective model, that for analgesia/anaesthesia in the first stage of labour, accounted for only 7.3% of the variance.

Conclusions: In the general population of pregnant women, anxiety and depression during pregnancy, while undesirable in themselves, are of little importance in the evolution of obstetric complications.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Depression / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors