Will Stress Catapult You Into Premature Labor?

It’s no secret that managing stress can be difficult. There are so many factors that can contribute to your stress level. Work, finances, relationships, parenting – being an adult is hard! It’s also no secret that being stressed can have an impact on your overall health. This is especially true during pregnancy, when your body is already undergoing lots of changes. One thing lots of moms worry about is whether or not stress can affect their pregnancy. For example, can stress cause premature labor? The science isn’t clear, but there is definitely some cause for concern.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what causes premature labor.

There are so many factors to consider, like mom’s overall health, family history, and reproductive history. For example, women who have chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, have a family history of premature labor, or have had a previous premature birth are at higher risk.

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Additionally, women who are pregnant with multiples, or are pregnant with a single fetus from in vitro fertilization are also at a higher risk of premature labor. There are also lifestyle risks. For example, smoking or drinking during pregnancy can lead to premature labor. Women who experience abuse during pregnancy, be it physical, emotional, or sexual, and women who work long hours on their feet have a greater chance of delivering early.

Another lifestyle risk is stress. Can stress cause premature labor?

It’s important to differentiate between acute stress and chronic stress. With acute stress, your body reacts to a stressful situation. Your blood pressure can go up, you can experience an increased heart rate, and stress hormones can flood your body. But with acute stress, the response is short-lived, and your body returns to its normal state. With chronic stress, your body reacts to ongoing stress triggers in your life and does not return to a normal state.

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Acute stress likely will not put you into premature labor. But there is an association between chronic stress and your risk of preterm labor. The changes your body undergoes when you’re chronically stressed can also cause long-term changes to your baby’s vascular system, immune system, and hormone levels. The changes to your baby could potentially cause labor to start before full term, which is 37 weeks.

So can stress cause premature labor? If you’re dealing with acute stress, it’s not likely. But long-term, chronic stress can increase your risk of going into labor before full term.

(Image: iStock / shironosov)

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