Epidemiologic studies suggest that prenatal stress is associated with preterm birth, low birth weight (1–3), and peripartum anxiety and depressive symptoms (4). The most recent population-based study, assessing trends in stress experienced in the year before an infant’s birth, used 1990–1995 data from 11 states participating in the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) (5). That study found that 64% of women surveyed reported experiencing at least one stressful life event (SLE), although the prevalence declined slightly over the study period. PRAMS data for 2000–2010 were used to examine more recent trends and to determine if the prevalence of SLEs has continued to decrease in the past decade. Additionally, 2010 data were used to determine the extent that maternal demographics and state of residence are associated with SLEs. This report describes the results of those analyses, which found that most women in the sample reported experiencing ≥1 SLEs in the year before their infant’s birth, although the prevalence of experiencing SLEs decreased during 2000–2010. In 2010, based on data from 27 states, 70.2% of women reported ≥1 SLEs. The mean number of SLEs was 1.81, ranging from 1.41 in New York City to 2.26 in Oklahoma. SLEs were most frequently financial. Prevalence of SLEs varied by PRAMS reporting site and maternal demographics. Younger, less educated, unmarried, and Medicaid-covered women had the highest prevalence of SLEs. Public health practitioners and clinicians can use the information on trends and risk factors for SLEs to determine the likelihood that pregnant women might benefit from screening for stressors during pregnancy.
Burns ER, Farr SL, Howards PP. Stressful Life Events Experienced by Women in the Year Before Their Infants’ Births — United States, 2000–2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2015:64:247-251.