5 Ways Stress Can Affect a Pregnancy

Increased Risks of Problems Later On

So far, we've only looked at the near future -- things that stress can do during the actual pregnancy or problems that become apparent immediately after the birth of the baby. However, some researchers think that chronic stress during a pregnancy can result in issues that may not manifest until later in life. Stress may affect the development of the baby's brain when the high levels of hormones cross into the placenta. These problems may be emotional, behavioral or physical. Stress in pregnant women, especially in the first trimester, may result in irritable, anxious babies [source: Medicine Net].

Stress can also cause behavioral problems. And once the baby is born, the child may be more vulnerable to a wide array of stress-related issues [source: MedicineNet]. This can mean learning difficulties and slower development. It may even predispose your baby to diseases such as heart disease, obesity and type II diabetes -- the conditions that stress can create or exacerbate in you, as well.

Although we've discussed some potentially serious conditions, keep in mind that the links between stress and pregnancy are still being formed, and only the most extreme stressful situations are likely to cause problems. When you're pregnant, everything you do can affect your baby in some way, so add "keeping down stress levels" to your pregnancy health checklist.

Related Articles


  • American Psychological Association. "Stress Weakens the Immune System. APA. Feb. 23, 2006. http://www.apa.org/research/action/immune.aspx
  • American Society for Reproductive Medicine. "Stress and Infertility." ASRM. 2008. http://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/Stress-Fact.pdf
  • CDC. "Premature Birth." National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Reproductive Health and National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Nov. 15, 2010.http://www.cdc.gov/Features/PrematureBirth/
  • Hobel, Calvin J., et al. "Maternal plasma corticotrophin-releasing hormone associated with stress at 20 weeks' gestation in pregnancies ending in preterm delivery." American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. January 1999.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000293789970712X
  • Johnson, Megan. "Can't Get Pregnant? How Stress May Be Causing Your Fertility." U.S. News. Aug. 27, 2010. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/womens-health/articles/2010/08/27/cant-get-pregnant-how-stress-may-be-causing-your-infertility
  • Kirchheimer, Sid. "How Stress Causes Miscarriage." WebMD. June 5, 2003. http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/news/20030605/how-stress-causes-miscarriage
  • Madhappan, Bhuvaneshwari, et al. "High Levels of Intrauterine Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone, Urocortin, Tryptase, and Interleukin-8 in Spontaneous Abortions." Endocrinology. June 2003.http://endo.endojournals.org/content/144/6/2285.long
  • March of Dimes. "Stress and Pregnancy." March of Dimes. January 2010. http://www.marchofdimes.com/Pregnancy/lifechanges_indepth.html
  • Milanovic, Snezana. "Maternal Stress and Low Birth Weight Predict Later Risk for Mood and Anxiety Disorders." Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women's Mental Health. May 22, 2008. http://www.womensmentalhealth.org/posts/maternal-stress-and-low-birth-weight-predict-later-risk-for-mood-and-anxiety-disorders/
  • OTIS. "Stress and Pregnancy." Organization of Teratology Information Specialists. January 2009. http://www.otispregnancy.org/files/stress.pdf
  • Science Daily. "Stress During Pregnancy Has Detrimental Effect on Offspring." Science Daily. Oct. 29, 2008. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081027140724.htm
  • WebMD. "Fetus to Mom: You're Stressing Me Out!" WebMD. Jan. 1, 2005. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=51730


Bed Rest Is Ineffective — Even Harmful — For Pregnant Women

Bed Rest Is Ineffective — Even Harmful — For Pregnant Women

Bed rest is ineffective, even harmful, for pregnant women. HowStuffWorks looks at the science.

More to Explore