Prospectively assessed perceived stress associated with early pregnancy losses among women with history of pregnancy loss

Karen C. Schliep, Stefanie N. Hinkle, Keewan Kim, Lindsey A. Sjaarda, Robert M. Silver, Joseph B. Stanford, Alexandra Purdue-Smithe, Torie Comeaux Plowden, Enrique F. Schisterman, Sunni L. Mumford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


STUDY QUESTION: What is the association between perceived stress during peri-conception and early pregnancy and pregnancy loss among women who have experienced a prior pregnancy loss? SUMMARY ANSWER: Daily perceived stress above the median is associated with over a 2-fold risk of early pregnancy loss among women who have experienced a prior loss. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY? Women who have experienced a pregnancy loss may be more vulnerable to stress while trying to become pregnant again. While prior research has indicated a link between psychological stress and clinically confirmed miscarriages, research is lacking among a pre-conceptional cohort followed prospectively for the effects of perceived stress during early critical windows of pregnancy establishment on risk of both hCG-detected pregnancy losses and confirmed losses, while considering important time-varying confounders. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Secondary data analysis of the EAGeR trial (2007–2011) among women with an hCG-detected pregnancy (n = 797 women). PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Women from four US clinical centers enrolled pre-conceptionally and were followed ≤6 cycles while attempting pregnancy and, as applicable, throughout pregnancy. Perceived stress was captured via daily diaries and end-of-month questionnaires. Main outcome measures include hCG-detected and clinically recognized pregnancy losses. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Among women who had an hCG-confirmed pregnancy, 188 pregnancies (23.6%) ended in loss. Women with high (>50th percentile) versus low (≤50th percentile) peri-implantation or early pregnancy weekly perceived stress had an elevated risk of experiencing any pregnancy loss (hazard ratio (HR): 1.69, 95% CI: 1.13, 2.54) or clinical loss (HR: 1.58, 95% CI: 0.96, 2.60), with higher risks observed for women experiencing an hCG-detected loss (HR: 2.16, 95% CI: 1.04, 4.46). Models accounted for women’s age, BMI, employment, marital status, income, education, race, parity, prior losses, exercise and time-varying nausea/vomiting, caffeine, alcohol and smoking. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: We were limited in our ability to clearly identify the mechanisms of stress on pregnancy loss due to our sole reliance on self-reported perceived stress, and the lack of biomarkers of different pathways of stress. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: This study provides new insight on early pregnancy perceived stress and risk of pregnancy loss, most notably hCG-detected losses, among women with a history of a prior loss. Our study is an improvement over past studies in its ability to account for time-varying early pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea/vomiting, and lifestyle factors, such as caffeine, alcohol and smoking, which are also risk factors for psychological stress and pregnancy loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2264-2274
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • epidemiology
  • mental health pregnancy loss
  • miscarriage
  • perceived stress
  • preconception cohort
  • psychological stress
  • recurrent pregnancy loss
  • spontaneous abortion
  • time-varying confounding factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Reproductive Medicine


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