Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman

Pregnancy Anxiety

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
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  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

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