Mental Health

No Direct Link Between Anxiety, Pregnancy Outcomes

Women with symptoms have no increased risk for birth complications, researchers say There is no direct association between anxiety and pregnancy outcomes, according to a review of the data on the subject by a team at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

The team reviewed 50 studies over 39 years and concluded that women who experience anxiety symptoms during pregnancy are not at increased risk for complications such as longer labor or a low-birth-weight baby.

The findings were presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in New Orleans.

“Pregnancy can be an emotional time for women and, for some, anxiety associated with the pregnancy can be compounded by pre-existing difficulties such as having an inadequate social support system,” review lead author Heather Littleton said in a prepared statement.

While, overall, anxiety has no direct effect on pregnancy outcomes, Littleton and her colleagues noted that more research is needed to determine if these findings apply to women with very high levels of anxiety, such as those with an anxiety disorder.

“This review of the literature clearly shows that additional research is necessary to completely understand how to best treat an anxious pregnant woman, and such work evaluating the mental and physical health of women during pregnancy could help to increase the number of healthy babies that are born,” Littleton said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about anxiety.

(SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, Aug. 13, 2006)

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