Effects of stress in pregnancy examined

31 March 2008

In focus: Dr Joerg Lindenau, Zeiss applications specialist from Jena, Germany, at the new Advanced Microscope Imaging Facility.

Dr Bavanisha Vythilingum is conducting a study on women's mental health during pregnancy and the role of stress on infant outcomes.

Together with researchers from Stellenbosch University, Vythilingum, who won the best poster award at the recent International Anxiety Disorders Symposium, looks at uterine artery blood flow to determine the association between blood flow and antenatal maternal psychological stress.

"We hope to understand how stress impacts on placental development," she explains.

Antenatal maternal stress has been linked to poor obstetric outcomes, such as pre-term labour, interuterine growth restriction and small-for-gestational-age-babies. It is believed that altered fetoplacental blood flow may be responsible for this. However, other studies of uterine blood flow show contradictory results.

"We wanted to look at the effects of stress in pregnancy," says Vythilingum, who is based at the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at Groote Schuur Hospital.

About 100 women from clinics in Bishop Lavis and Elsies River were assessed, using colour Doppler ultrasound and the K10, a tool to measure stress in women, at 13 weeks, 21 weeks and 32 weeks of pregnancy.

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