Prenatal Stress: Course and Interrelation of Emotional and Physiological Stress MeasuresRothenberger S.E.a · Moehler E.a · Reck C.b · Resch F.a
aClinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and bClinic of Psychiatry, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
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Article / Publication Details
Background: Prenatal stress is known to be a potential risk factor for cognitive, behavioural and motor development that even last until adolescence. A consensus of how ‘prenatal stress’ can be measured, in which trimester of pregnancy women should be studied and whether subjective feelings of being stressed are associated with a hormonal response is still lacking. To close this gap, a prospective longitudinal study was conducted in pregnant women. Sampling and Methods: 108 subjects were asked to fill out questionnaires concerning pregnancy-related anxiety, perceived stress, marital satisfaction, critical life events and to collect salivary cortisol in each trimester of pregnancy. Results: Fear of giving birth increases until the end of pregnancy, and marital satisfaction is highest at the end of pregnancy. Perceived stress is related to a hormonal response in cortisol only in the first (r = 0.18, p < 0.10) and second (r = 0.18, p < 0.10) trimesters of pregnancy. Critical life events are linked to raised cortisol levels in early pregnancy only (r = 0.28, p < 0.01). Conclusion: Prenatal stress can be operationalized by using different subjective as well as physiological stress measures. Only in the first half of pregnancy self-report and physiological stress measures seem to be associated.
© 2010 S. Karger AG, Basel
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