Influence of perinatal distress on adverse birth outcomes: A prospective study in the Tigray region, northern Ethiopia

Kebede Haile Misgina, Lindsay Levine, H. Marike Boezen, Afework Mulugeta Bezabih, Eline M. van der Beek, Henk Groen

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: In low-income countries, where socioeconomic adversities and perinatal distress are common, adverse birth outcomes are significant public health problems. In these settings, perinatal distress, i.e., high symptoms of anxiety, depression, and/or stress during pregnancy, may be linked with adverse birth outcomes. However, few prospective studies have investigated the impact of perinatal distress on adverse birth outcomes such as preterm birth (gestational age <37 weeks), low birth weight (<2.5 kg), and small for gestational age birth (birth weight below the 10th percentile for gestational age and sex). OBJECTIVES: Our main objective was to assess the influence of perinatal distress on adverse birth outcomes. Secondly, to investigate if perinatal distress is an independent risk factor or a mediator in the pathway between socioeconomic adversity and adverse birth outcomes. METHODS: In a prospective cohort study following 991 women from before 20 weeks of gestation until delivery in northern Ethiopia, we collected self-reported data on distress at a mean of 14.8 (standard deviation [SD] = 1.9) and 33.9 (SD = 1.1) weeks of gestation. Distress was measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, the anxiety subscale of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Perceived Stress Scale. To determine birth outcomes, gestational age was estimated from the last menstrual period, fundal palpation, and/or ultrasound, while birth weight was obtained from delivery records and measured within three days after birth for those delivered at home. Logistic regression and mediation analysis were employed to evaluate the impact of perinatal distress on adverse birth outcomes. RESULTS: Perinatal anxiety (OR [95% CI] 1.08 [1.02, 1.13]), depression (1.07 [1.03, 1.11]), stress (1.14 [1.07, 1.22]), and total distress (1.15 [1.07, 1.23]) were all associated with low birth weight, and small for gestational age birth but none did with preterm birth. Mediation analysis demonstrated that perinatal distress was a mediator in the pathway between socioeconomic adversity and adverse birth outcomes. CONCLUSION: Our study revealed that perinatal distress was linked with adverse birth outcomes and acted as a mediator between socioeconomic adversity and these outcomes. Our findings highlight the importance of screening women for distress and providing appropriate interventions, focusing on women experiencing socioeconomic adversity. Integrating mental health services into primary maternal care in low-income countries could be an effective approach to achieve this.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0287686
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume18
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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