Is being stressed out bad for pregnancy or not? One earthquake really shook the research up on this topic...
Studies over the years have mostly been inconclusive about stress during pregnancy, but when a 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit Chile in 2005, researchers saw an opportunity to finally get a definitive answer to this question.
Looking at pregnancy outcomes among 200,000 women who lived through this very stressful event, researchers found that women closest to the epicenter (and presumably most stressed out) had shorter pregnancies and were at higher risk of delivering preterm babies. Surprisingly, stress in the second and third months of pregnancy also appeared to affect the ratio of boys to girls born. Among women living closest to the earthquake's epicenter, researchers noted that fewer males were born, though they could not explain why.
So if you live anywhere near a fault line, does this mean you should worry? Probably not. "In terms of implications, it is clearly unrealistic to recommend avoiding natural disasters. However, this research suggests the need to improve access to healthcare for women from the onset of pregnancy and even before conception. Obviously this will not reduce the exposure to stress, but it may provide care, advice, and tools that would allow women to cope with stressful circumstances," says lead researcher, New York University professor Florencia Torche.
Have you ever talked to your doctor or midwife about stress? Bring it up at your next visit. From helping you set up an appointment with a counselor to doling out advice based on their own experiences, your doc may have some very useful resources to offer. And besides, just talking about what's stressing you out is often one of the easiest ways to find a little stress relief!