The Relationship Between Race, Inflammation and Psychosocial Factors Among Pregnant Women

Janet M. Catov, Melanie Flint, Min Jae Lee, James M. Roberts, Diane J. Abatemarco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


African American women have higher rates of preterm birth (PTB) than women from other racial or ethnic backgrounds. We explored the possibility that African American women experience higher anxiety/lower optimism levels, leading to excess inflammation, a possible pathway leading to PTB. In a cohort of 434 nulliparous women (African American, n = 119; Caucasian, n = 315), standardized measures of anxiety and optimism were completed at 20 weeks’ gestation. C-reactive protein (CRP) was measured in serum collected at the same time, and interleukin-6 (IL-6) was additionally measured in African American women. African American women tended to have higher rates of anxiety (>75th percentile) compared to Caucasian women (27.3 vs. 19.2 %, p = 0.08), but rates of low optimism (<25th percentile) did not vary by race. Contrary to our hypothesis, higher concentrations of CRP among African American women were associated with lower risk of anxiety in the highest quartile, adjusted for covariates (OR 0.65, 95 % CI 0.44, 0.98). Low optimism in African American women was also associated with lower IL-6, but results were only marginally significant (OR 0.43, 95 % CI 0.17, 1.10). CRP, anxiety, and optimism were not correlated among Caucasian women. African American women with high anxiety or low optimism had lower concentrations of pro-inflammatory markers at mid-gestation compared to those without these characteristics. Our results suggest that chronic anxiety among African American women may contribute to intractable race disparities in pregnancy outcomes via an impaired inflammatory response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-409
Number of pages9
JournalMaternal and child health journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Inflammation
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychosocial factors
  • Race disparity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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