Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman

Pregnancy Anxiety

  • Melissa JulianEmail author
  • Isabel F. Ramos
  • Nicole E. Mahrer
  • Christine Dunkel SchetterEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_102023-1



Pregnancy anxiety is a situation-specific negative emotional state tied to pregnancy-specific concerns or worries.


Pregnancy is the period from conception to childbirth and is divided into three trimesters, with an average gestational length of 40 weeks. While pregnancy can be a positive experience for many women and their families, it can also be a very stressful time. Some pregnant women become anxious about the health of their fetus, labor and delivery, and their ability to parent a new infant, among other concerns. Pregnancy anxiety (also referred to as pregnancy-specific anxiety or pregnancy-related anxiety) is a situation-specific negative emotional state tied to pregnancy-specific concerns or worries. Anxietyis defined as a negative emotional state characterized by worry, fear, and intrusive thoughts that are typically related to future events and often accompanied by somatic symptoms such as...

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References and Further Reading

  1. Alderdice, F., Lynn, F., & Lobel, M. (2012). A review and psychometric evaluation of pregnancy-specific stress measures. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, 33(2), 62–77.  https://doi.org/10.3109/0167482X.2012.673040.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Blair, M. M., Glynn, L. M., Sandman, C. A., & Davis, E. P. (2011). Prenatal maternal anxiety and early childhood temperament. Stress, 14(6), 644–651.  https://doi.org/10.3109/10253890.2011.594121.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Buss, C., Davis, E. P., Hobel, C. J., & Sandman, C. A. (2011). Maternal pregnancy-specific anxiety is associated with child executive function at 6–9 years age. Stress, 14(6), 665–676.  https://doi.org/10.3109/10253890.2011.623250.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Campos, B., Schetter, C. D., Walsh, J. A., & Schenker, M. (2007). Sharpening the focus on acculturative change: ARSMA-II, stress, pregnancy anxiety, and infant birthweight in recently immigrated Latinas. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 29(2), 209–224.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0739986307300841.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Davis, E. P., & Sandman, C. A. (2012). Prenatal psychobiological predictors of anxiety risk in preadolescent children. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(8), 1224–1233.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.12.016.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Dunkel Schetter, C. (2011). Psychological science on pregnancy: Stress processes, biopsychosocial models, and emerging research issues. Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 531–558.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.031809.130727.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Guardino, C. M., & Dunkel Schetter, C. (2014). Understanding pregnancy anxiety: Concepts, correlates and consequences. Zero to Three, 34(4), 12–21.Google Scholar
  8. Huizink, A. C., Robles de Medina, P. G., Mulder, E. J., Visser, G. H., & Buitelaar, J. K. (2003). Stress during pregnancy is associated with developmental outcome in infancy. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44, 810–818.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00166.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Kramer, M. S., Lydon, J., Séguin, L., Goulet, L., Kahn, S. R., McNamara, H., … & Platt, R. W. (2009). Stress pathways to spontaneous preterm birth: The role of stressors, psychological distress, and stress hormones. American Journal of Epidemiology, 69(11), 1319–1326.  https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwp061.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  11. Ramos, I. F., Guardino, C. M., Mansolf, M., Glynn, L. M., Sandman, C. A., Hobel, C. J., & Dunkel Schetter, C. (2019). Pregnancy anxiety predicts shorter gestation in Latina and non-Latina white women: The role of placental corticotrophin-releasing hormone. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 99, 166–173.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.09.008.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Rini, C. K., Dunkel-Schetter, C., Wadhwa, P. D., & Sandman, C. A. (1999). Psychological adaptation and birth outcomes: The role of personal resources, stress, and sociocultural context in pregnancy. Health Psychology, 18(4), 333–345.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-6133.18.4.333.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Roesch, S. C., Dunkel Schetter, C., Woo, G., & Hobel, C. J. (2004). Modeling the types and timing of stress in pregnancy. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 17(1), 87–102.  https://doi.org/10.1080/1061580031000123667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUCLALos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of La VerneLa VerneUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Marc D. Gellman
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioral Medicine Research Center, Department of PsychologyUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA