Women stressed in early adulthood ‘significantly more likely’ to have a miscarriage

A history of stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by up to 42 per cent, according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Review.

The study’s authors carried out a systematic review of studies reporting miscarriage in women with and without history of exposure to psychological stress.

They found that the risk of miscarriage was significantly higher in women with a history of exposure to psychological stress. This includes previous psychological challenges such as experience of emotional trauma, social problems, concerns about money, marital problems, work pressure and significant change in personal circumstances as well as prior pregnancy loss.

The findings remained after controlling for study type and stress exposure types, along with other factors.

The authors of the study (researchers from CityUniversity of London and University College London) suggest that the association between psychological stress and miscarriage could result from the activation and release of several stress hormones which can impact on some of the biochemical pathways which are essential for the maintenance of pregnancy.

Dr. Brenda Todd, one of the authors of the study, said: ‘While chromosomal abnormalities underlie many cases of early pregnancy loss, the results of this meta-analysis support the belief that a high level of psychological stress before and during pregnancy is also associated with miscarriage, the present results show that these psychological factors could increase the risk by approximately 42 per cent.’

‘Our finding provides robust evidence that prior psychological stress is harmful to women in early pregnancy and that there is a need for further high-quality research into an association between the experience of stress across a variety of contexts and miscarriage risk to fully understand the relationship.’

‘Our review also highlights the need to include a structured psychological assessment in early pregnancy into routine antenatal care, and our work has demonstrated the potential basis for novel and effective interventions in this field, as we urgently need to identify and treat psychological factors which contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes.’