NEW YORK, Feb 22 (Reuters) Pregnant women who experience stress in the first few weeks of pregnancy appear to have an increased risk of miscarriage, according to findings from a small study of women in Guatemala.
Maternal stress is often considered a risk factor for miscarriage, yet data supporting this association are lacking, lead author Dr Pablo A Nepomnaschy, from the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and colleagues note.
Previous studies looking at this topic may have failed to identify a link because they focused on women at least six weeks after their last menstrual period. By contrast, most miscarriages occur earlier in pregnancy, usually within three weeks of conception.
In the study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition, levels of the stress hormone cortisol levels were measured in the urine during the first three weeks of 22 pregnancies. Thirteen of the pregnancies eventually ended in miscarriage, usually within a few days after the first missed period.
Women with cortisol levels that were higher than normal were nearly three times more likely to experience a miscarriage than women without increased cortisol levels.
The researchers suggest that pregnancy may be particularly sensitive to maternal stress during the early period when the embryo is attaching to the mother's womb.
REUTERS AK BS0844