Prenatal maternal stress is associated with delivery analgesia and unplanned cesareans

Tracie A. Saunders, Marci Lobel, Christine Veloso, Bruce A. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


We tested the hypothesis that women with greater prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) would be more likely to receive intravenous opiates and epidural for delivery, and thereby increase the likelihood of unplanned cesarean delivery. PNMS was assessed during early, mid, and late pregnancy using psychometrically sound instruments in structured interviews with women receiving prenatal care at a public university clinic. Medical records were abstracted for analgesia during delivery, fetal heart tracing (FHT) abnormalities, and method of delivery. Only subjects attempting vaginal delivery (N = 298) were included. Using structural equation modeling, a PNMS variable was constructed from five indicators: pregnancy-specific distress, number of prenatal stressful life events, distress from life events, state anxiety, and perceived stress. After controlling for medical predictors of analgesia receipt and surgical delivery, women with higher PNMS were more likely to receive analgesia, and those who received analgesia were more likely to deliver surgically. Analgesia was also associated with FHT abnormalities, which in turn was associated with surgical delivery (all p's < 0.05). Women who received both an epidural and meperidine were most likely to have a cesarean delivery; 29% of this group delivered surgically. Results indicate that PNMS contributes to higher likelihood of unplanned cesarean delivery through its association with delivery analgesia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-146
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006


  • Analgesia
  • Cesarean
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Surgical delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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