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The Psychoneuroimmunology of Stress in Pregnancy
Abstract and Figures
The rate of preterm birth in the United States remains high. In up to 40% of cases of preterm birth, the mothers are healthy women who have no clear risk factors. Accordingly, research has begun to explore the effect of prenatal stress on the risk of preterm birth and shortened gestational age at birth. There is increasing evidence that psychosocial stress throughout gestation increases the risk of preterm birth through changes in maternal endocrine, immune, and inflammatory activity during pregnancy. In this article, I describe foundational and current research examining the effects and biological mechanisms of prenatal stress in preterm birth and shortened gestational age at birth. I emphasize psychoneuroimmunology-focused studies showing that prenatal stress alters inflammatory and endocrine markers during gestation and that these changes are associated with preterm birth and shortened gestational age at birth.
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