THURSDAY, Sept. 29, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Pregnancy anxiety in the third trimester may predict shorter gestational length, according to a study published online in Health Psychology.

Christine Dunkel Schetter, Ph.D., from the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues examined covariance among four anxiety or distress measures at two times in pregnancy and examined their impact on gestational length. A total of 196 women were interviewed in the first and third trimester using a clinical screener of anxiety severity/impairment, two instruments that measure pregnancy anxiety, and one on prenatal distress. Structural equation modeling was used to fit latent factors for each trimester from the four measures.

The researchers found that after adjustment for the mother’s age, education, parity, and obstetric risk, the third-trimester pregnancy anxiety latent factor predicted shorter gestational length. Third-trimester scores on a four-item pregnancy-specific anxiety measure added uniquely to the prediction of gestational length. In the first trimester, scores on the clinical screener, but not the latent factor, uniquely predicted shorter gestational length.

“Although not all women who begin pregnancy with general anxiety symptoms will later experience pregnancy-specific anxiety, our results suggest that women who do follow this progression are likely to be especially at risk for earlier delivery,” Schetter said in a statement.

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