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Keywords:

  • biobehavioral pathophysiology;
  • chronic stress;
  • pregnancy;
  • premature birth

ABSTRACT

Women's health care providers are increasingly aware that chronic stressors—such as poverty, ongoing perceived stress and anxiety, intimate partner violence, and experiences of racism—are associated with an increased incidence of preterm birth in the United States. It is important to increase our understanding of the explanatory pathways involved in these associations. This article discusses the concepts of stress, chronic stress response, allostatic load, the physiology of labor initiation, and the pathophysiologic interactions that may contribute to the occurrence of chronic stress-related preterm birth. Implications for future research and interventions are explored.