The Pennsylvania State University
Stress can be a natural part of pregnancy and the life changes that occur with a new infant. Higher levels of stress impact quality of life, manifesting in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Physical responses to stress occur in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal cortex system as well as the sympathetic nervous system, affecting the well-being of both mother and child (Chang, Chen, & Huang, 2008). Cortisol—a hormone associated with stress, and a leading predictor of premature labor—is higher in mothers experiencing stress, and can affect the fetus as well (Field, 2008; Schwartz, 1997). Leung et al. (2010) found that the level of prenatal maternal stress predicted the amount of cortisol found in newborns and 10-month-old infants.
Heightened stress and anxiety levels are also likely to be…