Can Stress Cause Stillbirth? Here’s What Moms Need to Know

    Can Stress Cause Stillbirth? Here’s What Moms Need to Know

    A stillbirth can happen because of a number of factors during pregnancy. And one of the most common questions is “Can stress cause stillbirth?”

    Read on to learn more about the relationship between stillbirths and stress, and to know what moms can do in order to lower the chances of it happening.

    What is a stillbirth?

    A stillbirth happens when a baby dies after the 20th week or 4 1/2 months into pregnancy. In contrast, a miscarriage happens before the 20th week. In some cases, it’s possible for the baby to die during labor, but these situations are fairly rare.

    Even now, doctors don’t always know why stillbirth occurs. In fact, an estimated 1/3 of stillbirths cannot be explained. However, there are certain possible causes, which include1:

    • Preeclampsia or high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy
    • If the mother has lupus
    • Diseases that affect blood clotting
    • Problems with the umbilical cord and placenta
    • Birth defects
    • Smoking, drinking alcohol, or using recreational drugs
    • Other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and viral or bacterial infections

    However, there is one more possible cause of stillbirth, which is stress. But how can stress cause stillbirth, and can it be avoided?

    How can stress cause stillbirth?

    Stress is something that a lot of us deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes, the stress that we experience can be too much, so we start to feel overwhelmed. This can manifest in different ways, such as constantly feeling tired, easily getting angry, or getting anxious all the time.

    If stress affects us this much, you can just imagine how big of an impact it can have on pregnant women. Pregnant women deal with a lot of things on a day-to-day basis that can cause stress, such as the changes that happen to their body, worrying about the health of their baby, or even worrying if they will be a good mother.

    Studies done about stress and stillbirth have shown that mothers who suffer from psychological stress during pregnancy are more prone to stillbirths. Some examples of stress that pregnant mothers experience include having problems at work, money problems, losing a loved one, or even having an unhealthy relationship with their partner2.

    It’s still unclear why exactly stress has this effect, but it could have something to do with the fact that a mother’s psychological state can affect the fetus. Aside from this, researchers have also found that psychological stress can increase the risk of preterm birth and placental abruption3.

    So with regard to the question of “Can stress cause stillbirth?”, the answer is yes, it can be a contributing factor4. This is why it is important for pregnant mothers to also focus on their mental health, and not just their physical health.

    What can pregnant mothers do about stress?

    Dealing with stress isn’t always easy, but there are some things that pregnant mothers can do in order to better handle their stress. Here are some tips5:

    • Eat healthy foods, and try to engage in daily exercise. Exercise helps reduce your stress levels, and eating healthy food strengthens your body and helps you better cope with your pregnancy.
    • If you’re also working while pregnant, try and see if you can take an early maternity leave so you can focus on your pregnancy.
    • Yoga and meditation are effective and proven ways of helping lower stress levels.
    • Stay in touch with your friends and loved ones, so that they can provide you with emotional support.
    • If you feel overwhelmed, or that you can’t handle the stress, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

    Learn more about Complications and Giving Birth here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Sources
    1. Stillbirth: Definition, Causes & Prevention, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9685-stillbirth, Accessed August 23, 2021
    2. Stillbirth risk 2-4x higher for mothers experiencing deprivation, unemployment, stress and domestic abuse | Tommy’s, https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/177/3/228/101625, Accessed August 23, 2021
    3. Invited Commentary: Maternal Stress and Stillbirth—Another Piece of the Puzzle | American Journal of Epidemiology | Oxford Academic, https://www.tommys.org/about-us/charity-news/stillbirth-risk-2-4x-higher-mothers-experiencing-deprivation-unemployment-stress-and-domestic-abuse, Accessed August 23, 2021
    4. Stressful life events may increase stillbirth risk, NIH network study finds | National Institutes of Health (NIH), https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/stressful-life-events-may-increase-stillbirth-risk-nih-network-study-finds, Accessed August 23, 2021
    5. Stress and pregnancy, https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/stress-and-pregnancy.aspx, Accessed August 23, 2021
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    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jul 14
    Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD