Emory University
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Chronic stress in pregnant African American women leads to biological changes

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Researchers at Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing have identified underlying biological changes among minority and low-income pregnant women that occur in response to chronic stress. The women had elevated levels of cortisol, a major stress hormone, and their bodies had reduced ability to control inflammation. Inflammation and elevated free cortisol during pregnancy are associated with significant adverse maternal and infant outcomes, including preterm birth, hypertension, diabetes, preeclampsia, and miscarriage.

"With 30,000 more African-American infants born prematurely each year compared to Caucasian infants, it is very clear there is a difference in birth outcomes in the United States," explains researcher Elizabeth Corwin. "This health disparity appears related to the exposure of minority and low-income women to chronic stress, which wears on the health of these women prior to pregnancy as well as during and after pregnancy."

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