How Stress during Childbirth Affects Maternal and Neonatal Health

There is a direct connection between mothers’ and newborns’ health during pregnancy and after delivery. The course of gestation from preconception through the postpartum phase impacts the total health of a mother. It is important for her child’s overall health via its growth development to preschool age and beyond.

During pregnancy, many factors can have a significant effect on a mother’s and neonatal health. These include the mother’s emotional state, relationship issues, challenging circumstances at work, etc. An additional crucial element- mental stress level- might substantially impact during pregnancy. Many research studies have been done on the impact of stress during pregnancy on the mother’s and her unborn child’s health. Let’s look into the effects of stress.

Preterm labor

When women are under stress during pregnancy, it can cause preterm labor. Preterm labor is when the baby’s heart rate becomes irregular, or the labor starts before 37 weeks of pregnancy. In this case, the baby may be born early. The statistics may show that many preterm birth children lead a normal and healthy life, but it still can lead to long-term health problems for the mother and child.

Preterm birth also increases the chances of the child sustaining childbirth injuries that can result in serious medical conditions like Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, etc. If you or anyone you know has a child who has sustained a childbirth injury, you can visit to protect your child’s future.  

Premature babies may experience:

Preterm birth can take a toll on the emotional health of the mother and can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Postpartum depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Problems bonding with their baby

Gestational Diabetes

Stress during pregnancy can cause gestational diabetes. Statistics show that 6-9% of women in the US develop gestational diabetes. When stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol, which causes glucose to be stored in your fat. It is called “stress-induced hyperglycemia.” That increases blood glucose levels, making it difficult for insulin to break down the glucose. It is a temporary condition that goes away with your child’s birth. Still, it requires strict dietary care and lifestyle changes during your pregnancy.

The development of gestational diabetes can put your unborn child at risk. It may result in preterm birth, stillbirth, or congenital disabilities. Your child may develop the condition of macrosomia, and the doctor would advise a cesarean birth as natural birth can cause injuries to the baby and the mother. Other health complications your child may experience later in life including obesity, diabetes, or breathing problems like respiratory distress syndrome.

For the mother, the development of gestational diabetes can have long-term effects too. As you age, the mother may develop diabetes in future pregnancy or type-2 diabetes. It can also cause hypertension and a serious condition known as preeclampsia.  For more updates, visit:

Gestational Hypertension

When a woman experiences stress during pregnancy it may lead to gestational hypertension. Gestational hypertension is also called preeclampsia, which is characterized by high blood pressure in the mother. It is a condition that occurs when your blood pressure rises above 140/90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) during pregnancy. Preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication, is greatly increased by elevated blood pressure throughout pregnancy.

These symptoms may be mild, so your healthcare provider will likely order some tests to confirm that you have gestational hypertension. If you have gestational hypertension, taking care of yourself and avoiding complications like preeclampsia is important.

This condition can be dangerous for both mother and baby if left untreated. It can cause

  • Damage to the kidneys, liver, brain, and other vital organs
  • Placental abruption
  • Preterm birth
  • Childbirth Injuries
  • Stillbirth
  • Eclampsia

Fetal Growth Restriction

A fetal growth restriction (FGR) disease, also known as intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), describes when an unborn child is not developing normally inside the womb. In this condition, the baby’s head, or crown–to–rump length (CRL), is less than what it normally should be at the given gestational age. The most common causes of fetal growth restriction include:

  • pregnancy-related hypertension
  • preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
  • diabetes during pregnancy
  • poor nutrition or eating disorders
  • labor dystocia (difficult labor)

Some types of health issues are more likely to affect babies with IUGR. A prolonged hospital stay is more common for those who are prematurely born or have extremely small babies at birth. Additionally, they may require specialized care in the newborn intensive care unit (the NICU). In addition to these issues, intrauterine growth restriction can also cause:

  • issues with feeding
  • breathing issues
  • maintaining a constant body temperature
  • abnormal blood cell counts
  • hypoglycemia
  • problems preventing infections
  • Neurological conditions

For the mother, looking after a baby that had IUGR comes with a lot of emotional trouble. They are more likely to develop anxiety and postpartum depression.

Other problems associated with stress during pregnancy

We don’t fully understand how stress affects pregnancy. The severity of these issues can differ from woman to woman. Still, specific hormones connected to stress may contribute to the development of several pregnancy issues. Stress that is severe or ongoing may affect your immune system, which protects you from illness. The likelihood of developing a uterine infection may rise, leading to preterm labor and birth. Stress can worsen common pregnancy discomforts, including sleeplessness, body aches, and morning sickness. While pregnant, you might have issues with your eating habits, such as eating too much or too little, and you might lose or put on too much weight. Additionally, it can make you more likely to experience premature labor and gestational diabetes.

The effects of stress on the mother and newborn are not just limited to physical health. Stress can also lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and postpartum psychosis. The child may have behavioral problems due to the mother’s negative experience during delivery.

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Numerous factors impact a woman’s health and pregnancy. One factor that has been found to have an immense impact is the amount of anxiety a mother faces. If a mother’s stress levels remain high, it can cause serious conditions and harm the child’s development and the mother and child’s health in the long run. Doctors and family members need to be aware of how stress might affect both the mother and baby. To accomplish this, constant communication with the mother is essential. Staff must be trained to recognize signs of stress throughout the nine months of pregnancy and during the birthing process. It will allow them to intervene immediately if the need arises. Ensuring that expectant mothers have a healthy environment and are not overly stressed can significantly benefit both mother and child.