Anxiety During Pregnancy Can Lead to Earlier Births

Anxiety During Pregnancy Can Lead to Earlier Births : A recent study published by the American Psychological Association (APA) has found that women who experience anxiety about their pregnancies give birth earlier (on average) than those who do not have this mental condition. The study can help doctors understand when and how to screen women for anxiety during pregnancy, in an aim to prevent preterm birth.

Currently, symptoms of postpartum depression among pregnant women are assessed in many clinics across the globe because of the well-known link between this condition and its negative effects on both new mothers and their babies. However, the new study shows that pregnancy-focused anxiety, too, needs to be taken seriously and assessed at the earliest stage possible.

The Long-Term Complications of Preterm Birth

Preventing preterm births by taking care of pregnant women’s health is key because early births can lead to a host of complications. These include cerebral palsy, learning difficulties, vision and hearing issues, dental problem, behavioral and psychological problems, and chronic health issues. Premature infants also have a heightened risk of developing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Why Early Assessment Is Key

The findings highlight the need for doctors and other health professionals dealing with pregnant women to ask questions early in a pregnancy (and throughout it) about anxiety. Women who are found to have generalized or pregnancy-related anxiety can benefit from seeing a professional counselor or therapist early, to stop the problem in its tracks. The list of treatments that can successfully end or reduce anxiety symptoms includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and massage therapy. Patients with severe anxiety may elect to continue anti-anxiety medications if these have been described. However, therapy can help them find more productive ways to deal with stress. CBT essentially highlights the link between thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Trained counselors can help patients reframe negative beliefs and thoughts, and/or suggest behaviors that in turn affect the way they feel and think about situations and people.

The Prevalence of Anxiety During Pregnancy

Previous studies had shown that up to one-quarter of all pregnant women have elevated anxiety symptoms, and that having anxiety can up the chance of preterm birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy. However, these studies looked at both generalized anxiety and pregnancy-related anxiety. The APA study used four different tests to obtain a better understanding of pregnancy-focused anxiety in particular. One test screened for general anxiety and the remaining three screened for pregnancy-related anxiety and stressors such as medical care and worries about caring for a newborn. The results showed that the result on all three tests for pregnancy-related stress and anxiety had similar results. They also showed that pregnancy-related anxiety was most strongly related to preterm births. However, generalized anxiety in the first term of pregnancy was also linked to a higher chance of having a preterm birth. Scientists postulated that this type of anxiety could predispose women to feel more anxious about their pregnancy or impending motherhood, during later terms.

Early screening and constant monitoring can help anxiety from resulting in preterm birth. It is important for policy changes to be effected in clinical settings, so that doctors can take anxiety as seriously as they do postnatal depression. There are many interventions that can help anxiety from progressing, while teaching patients positive ways to deal with stress, both during and after their pregnancy.




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