Pregnancy anxiety, placental corticotropin-releasing hormone and length of gestation

Isabel F. Ramos, Kharah M. Ross, Gabrielle R. Rinne, Jennifer A. Somers, Roberta A. Mancuso, Calvin J. Hobel, Mary Coussons-Read, Christine Dunkel Schetter

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: High pregnancy anxiety is a consistent predictor of earlier labor and delivery. Placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH) predicts earlier delivery consistently and it has been identified as a biological mediator of the association between pregnancy anxiety and gestational length. However, studies have not examined whether changes in pregnancy anxiety are associated with earlier birth as mediated by changes in pCRH during pregnancy. Accordingly, this study tests whether linear changes in pregnancy anxiety are associated with length of gestation indirectly through nonlinear increases in pCRH over pregnancy. Methods: A sample of pregnant women (n=233) completed prenatal assessments in early pregnancy, second trimester, and third trimester that included a 4-item assessment of pregnancy anxiety and collection of blood samples assayed for pCRH using radioimmunoassay. Length of gestation was abstracted from medical records after birth. Results: Increases in pregnancy anxiety from early pregnancy to third trimester predicted shorted length of gestation, as did nonlinear increases in pCRH over pregnancy. However, there was no evidence of an indirect effect of changes in pregnancy anxiety on length of gestation via changes in pCRH. Conclusions: These results indicate that linear changes in pregnancy anxiety and nonlinear changes in pCRH during pregnancy are independent risk factors for shortened gestational length. This study adds to a small but growing body of work on biopsychological processes in pregnancy and length of gestation. Modeling changes in psychological and biological processes during pregnancy could provide more insight into understanding risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108376
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Jul. 2022


  • HPA-axis
  • Length of gestation
  • Placental corticotrophin releasing hormone
  • Pregnancy anxiety
  • Preterm birth


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