Stress and placental resistance measured by Doppler ultrasound in early and mid-pregnancy

Authors

  • E. W. Harville,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
    • Department of Epidemiology, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, LA, USA
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  • D. A. Savitz,

    1. Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
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  • N. Dole,

    1. Department of Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
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  • A. H. Herring,

    1. Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
    2. Department of Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
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  • J. M. Thorp,

    1. Department of Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
    2. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
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  • K. C. Light

    1. Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
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Abstract

Objectives

To examine the association between self reports and biomarkers of stress and placental resistance (measured by Doppler ultrasound of the uterine and umbilical arteries), to determine if restriction of blood flow to the placenta is a mechanism by which stress might affect health during pregnancy.

Methods

Eight hundred and seventy-two women had ultrasound examinations of the uterine artery at 15–19 weeks' gestation and the uterine and umbilical arteries at 24–29 weeks, and resistance and pulsatility indices were calculated. Psychosocial stress was measured by telephone interview and self-administered questionnaire using several validated tools twice during the pregnancy. Cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) were measured twice during the pregnancy. Linear and hierarchical models were used to examine the relationships among reported stress, stress hormones and placental Doppler indices.

Results

The umbilical artery resistance index was higher in younger women, those with less education, those who were single and those who smoked. The uterine artery pulsatility index was higher in women with pre-eclampsia, those living alone, those with high body mass index, and those who gained the least weight during pregnancy. A higher CRH level was associated with small increases in uterine artery pulsatility and umbilical artery resistance indices. Psychosocial measures of stress were not consistently associated with higher placental resistance.

Conclusions

Increased CRH levels may be associated with increased placental resistance. Otherwise, these findings do not support the hypothesis that restriction of blood flow to the fetus is a major mechanism by which stress affects infant health. Copyright © 2008 ISUOG. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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