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Maternal stress and neonatal anthropometry: the NICHD Fetal Growth Studies.



The effect of maternal mood disorders on neonatal measurements is not well-defined. The Fetal Growth Studies-Singletons provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the relationship between perceived maternal stress and neonatal growth measurements.


The purpose of this study was to determine whether perceived maternal stress during pregnancy is associated with anthropometric measurements in the neonate.

Study design

This analysis was based on a prospective, multicenter longitudinal study of fetal growth. Women 18-40 years old with a body mass index of 19.0-29.9 kg/m2 were screened at 8+0 to 13+6 weeks gestation for low-risk status associated with optimal fetal growth (eg, healthy, nonsmoking) and underwent serial sonographic examination at 6 study visits throughout gestation. At each study visit, women completed the Cohen's Perceived Stress Survey, which could have a score that ranges from 0-40. We used a latent class trajectory model to identify distinct groupings (ie, classes) of the Perceived Stress Survey trajectories over pregnancy. Trend analysis was used to determine whether neonatal measurements including birthweight, length, head circumference, and abdominal circumference differed by Perceived Stress Survey class and whether this relationship was modified by maternal race/ethnicity, after adjustment for gestational age at delivery, maternal height, age, and parity.


Of the 2334 women enrolled in the study, 1948 women had complete neonatal anthropometry and were included in the analysis. Latent class analysis identified 3 Perceived Stress Survey trajectory classes, with mean Perceived Stress Survey scores of 2.82 (low), 7.95 (medium), and 14.80 (high). Neonatal anthropometric measures of birthweight, length, head circumference and abdominal circumference were similar (P=.78, =.10, =.18, and =.40 respectively), regardless of the participants' Perceived Stress Survey class. There was no effect modification by maternal race/ethnicity.


Neonatal measurements did not differ by levels of perceived stress among low-risk pregnant women.

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