Assessing the Relationship Between Self-Reported Stress and Cortisol in Pregnant Women Open Access

Edukere, Sophia Charlene (2014)

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As health professionals work with women experiencing anxiety, depression and other stress related mental illness, understanding the relationship between a woman's subjective (i.e., self-report) and objective (i.e., salivary cortisol) symptoms will enable accurate diagnosis and treatment of stress related mood disorders. The first objective was to investigate the relationship between self-reported and biologically mediated measures of stress in a sample of 184 pregnant women (158 African-American and 26 Hispanic) at four time points during pregnancy (second trimester, third trimester, birth and four week post birth). Using an age-matched subset, the main hypothesis, that salivary cortisol and self-reported stress were positively correlated, was partially supported. There was a significant positive relationship between cortisol concentration and self-reported anxiety, depression and perceived stress at one month postnatal age. The second objective was to investigate if self-report stress profiles were different among African-American and Hispanic women. There were two statistical trends suggesting that African-American pregnant women endorse more cognitive/affective related depression symptoms (vs. somatic symptoms) at the second (p=0.076) and third trimester (p=0.075). Understanding differential profiles of distress in pregnant vs. non-pregnant women as well as varying ethnicities becomes important when the women present for mental health services. The potential significance of the current study is further amplified in this sample of pregnant women because stress related maternal illnesses have been suggested to negatively affect fetal development (Emory & Dieter, 2006; Field et al., 2004).

Table of Contents

Introduction------------------- 6

Method ----------------------- 25

Results------------------------ 31

Discussion--------------------- 36

Tables ------------------------ 48

References-------------------- 54

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