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Shannon Koehle: Stress and Stillbirths

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According to a Danish study, pregnant women experiencing a high level of psychological stress may be at in increased risk for stillbirths.

Stillbirth is when a fetus that was expected to survive, dies during birth or in the last stages of pregnancy says, the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

A study conducted over a 10-year period suggests that while most women under high stress deliver healthy newborns, their stillbirth rates, compared to women with moderate to low stress rates were five percent compared to three percent.

While these numbers appear low, women under high stress are possibly 80 percent more likely to have stillbirths than women with moderate or low stress lives.

The Danish study followed more than 19,000 women between 1989 and 1998 gauging the women’s stress levels with questionnaires asking, for example, how often they felt happy, worried, or unable to deal with their problems.

However, despite results lead author Dr. Kirsten Wisborg, from Aarhus University Hospital in Demark, says since this association is just starting to be explored, “Our result should be confirmed by other studies.”

If in fact high stress is a definite factor for increased stillbirth rates, then, she says, studies will have to indicate whether stress reduction can lower this risk.

As a Reuters Health Information article reported, “Wisborg notes, stress, depression and anxiety all trigger the release of catecholamines, a group of hormones that includes dopamine and epinephrine (adrenalin).”

“Catecholamines are hormones produced by the adrenal glands . . . They are released into the blood during times of physical and emotional stress,” says Medline Plus, in association with the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Similarly, according to Reuters, animal studies suggest high levels of these stress hormones may hinder blood flow to the placenta.

Along with physical and emotions stress, foods like bananas, citrus fruits, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and tea, can increase catecholamine levels.

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