Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57071. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057071. Epub 2013 Feb 20.

Does antenatal maternal psychological distress affect placental circulation in the third trimester?

Author information

  • 1Norwegian Resource Centre for Women's Health, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.



Some types of antenatal maternal psychological distress may be associated with reduced fetal growth and birthweight. A stress-mediated reduction in placental blood flow has been suggested as a mechanism. Previous studies have examined this using ultrasound-derived arterial resistance measures in the uterine (UtA) and umbilical (UA) arteries, with mixed conclusions. However, a reduction in placental volume blood flow may occur before changes in arterial resistance measures are seen. Fetoplacental volume blood flow can be quantified non-invasively in the umbilical vein (UV). Our objective was to study whether specific types of maternal psychological distress affect the placental circulation, using volume blood flow quantification in addition to arterial resistance measures.


This was a prospective observational study of 104 non-smoking pregnant women (gestational age 30 weeks) with uncomplicated obstetric histories. Psychological distress was measured by General Health Questionnaire-28 (subscales anxiety and depression) and Impact of Event Scale-22 (subscales intrusion, avoidance and arousal). UtA and UA resistance measures and UV volume blood flow normalized for fetal abdominal circumference, were obtained by Doppler ultrasound.


IES intrusion scores above the mean were associated with a reduction in normalized UV volume blood flow (corresponding to -0.61 SD; Pā€Š=ā€Š0.003). Adjusting for UA resistance increased the strength of this association (difference -0.66 SD; P<0.001). Other distress types were not associated with UV volume blood flow. Maternal distress was not associated with arterial resistance measures, despite adjustment for confounders.


Intrusive thoughts and emotional distress regarding the fetus were associated with reduced fetoplacental volume blood flow in third trimester. Uterine and umbilical artery resistance measures were not associated with maternal distress. Our findings support a decrease in fetoplacental blood flow as a possible pathway between maternal distress and reduced fetal growth.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk