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Keywords:

  • stress;
  • pre-term labour;
  • pre-term birth;
  • low birthweight;
  • daily hassles;
  • mood states

Stress, pre-term labour and birth outcomes

Preliminary studies have suggested that stress may be associated with the onset, treatment and outcomes of pre-term labour; however, a systematic comparison of the stress of women with and without pre-term labour has not been reported. Therefore, the purpose of this exploratory study was to compare the stress (daily hassles and mood states) and birth outcomes of black and white women who experienced pre-term labour (PTL) during pregnancy with those who did not. The convenience sample consisted of 35 pregnant women hospitalized in 1996–1997 for the treatment of PTL (24–35 weeks gestation) and 35 controls matched on age, race, parity, gestational age and method of hospital payment. Women in the PTL group had significantly higher tension-anxiety and depression-dejection on the Profile of Mood States (POMS), lower mean birthweight and mean gestational age, and a higher percentage of babies born <37 weeks and weighing 2500 g or less. Black women in the PTL group and white women in the control group had significantly higher scores on the fatigue sub-scale of the POMS and the work and future security sub-scales of the Daily Hassles Scale. Women in the PTL group whose babies weighed 2500 g or less had significantly higher scores on the health, inner concern and financial responsibility sub-scales of the Daily Hassles Scale. The findings from this study indicate the need for further exploration of the interaction of race and stress in understanding and preventing PTL and low birthweight and the need to examine the role of social support in preventing pre-term birth after an episode of PTL.