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Pregnancy stress, healthy pregnancy and birth outcomes – the need for early preventative approaches in pregnant Australian Indigenous women: a prospective longitudinal cohort study

  • B. L. Mah (a1) (a2), K. G. Pringle (a2) (a3) (a4) (a5), L. Weatherall (a3), L. Keogh (a3), T. Schumacher (a3) (a6) (a7), S. Eades (a8), A. Brown (a9) (a10), E. R. Lumbers (a2) (a4) (a5), C. T. Roberts (a11), C. Diehm (a3), R. Smith (a2) (a4) and K. M. Rae (a3) (a4) (a6) (a12)...

Adverse pregnancy outcomes including prematurity and low birth weight (LBW) have been associated with life-long chronic disease risk for the infant. Stress during pregnancy increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Many studies have reported the incidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes in Indigenous populations and a smaller number of studies have measured rates of stress and depression in these populations. This study sought to examine the potential association between stress during pregnancy and the rate of adverse pregnancy outcomes in Australian Indigenous women residing in rural and remote communities in New South Wales. This study found a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy than the general population. There was also a higher incidence of prematurity and LBW deliveries. Unfortunately, missing post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive symptomatology data impeded the examination of associations of interest. This was largely due to the highly sensitive nature of the issues under investigation, and the need to ensure adequate levels of trust between Indigenous women and research staff before disclosure and recording of sensitive research data. We were unable to demonstrate a significant association between the level of stress and the incidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes at this stage. We recommend this longitudinal study continue until complete data sets are available. Future research in this area should ensure prioritization of building trust in participants and overestimating sample size to ensure no undue pressure is placed upon an already stressed participant.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Associate Professor Kym Rae, University of Newcastle, Gomeroi gaaynggal Centre, 2/1 Hinkler Street, Tamworth NSW 2340, Australia. E-mail:
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