Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes

A Multilevel Analysis of Prenatal Maternal Stress and Birth Weight

Authored by: Christine Dunkel Schetter , Marci Lobel

Handbook of Health Psychology

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  April  2012

Print ISBN: 9780805864618
eBook ISBN: 9780203804100
Adobe ISBN: 9781136638299


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Not long ago, the study of pregnancy and birth was the sole domain of the field of medicine and the allied health professions. In recent decades, psychosocial and sociocultural factors have been increasingly incorporated into theory and research on pregnancy in order to improve our scientific understanding of the factors that elevate or reduce risk. When we began our work on pregnancy in the 1980s, it was recognized that even a complete analysis of medical risk factors did not account for much of the variation in rates of such adverse birth outcomes as preterm birth or low birth weight. However, approaches to the identification of psychosocial risk factors were still evolving in rigor and acceptance by biomedical scientists. In the intervening decades, psychosocial and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of pregnancy and birth have evolved considerably; they are not only accepted today but often welcomed. Many behavioral, sociological, cultural, and biomedical scientists now work together in collaboration to understand the complex interplay of multiple levels and types of concepts that contribute to maternal and child outcomes. Moreover, biopsychosocial integration is producing exciting findings and important insights that promise to improve future health outcomes for pregnant women and their offspring.

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