A Psychological Stress Biomarker in Pregnant Women: Ultra-short-term
Heart Rate Variability
Prenatal maternal psychological stress is common in pregnant women.
Heart rate variability (HRV) has recently become considered to be a
potentially reliable stress biomarker in adults. Methods:In the current
study, we evaluated ultra-short-term HRV (1-minute measurement) as a
stress indicator among pregnant women (N = 230) by examining the
association between HRV parameters and self-reported prenatal maternal
psychological stress (emotional distress, and anxiety). Results:
Prenatal emotional distress was associated with a lower root mean square
of successive differences between normal heartbeats (RMSSD), pNN50, SDNN
Index, and low-frequency power (LF) among healthy pregnant women
participants. In addition, prenatal anxiety was related to a
lower-than-normal high-frequency power (HF) and elevated LF/HF values.
For high-risk pregnant women (with reported scores greater than or equal
to the 90th percentile), prenatal emotional distress and anxiety were
not significantly correlated with any HRV indicators. Conclusions: Low
HRV (associated with reduced parasympathetic activity) can serve as an
efficient biomarker for psychological stress in healthy pregnant women.
However, the HRV indicators in pregnant women with a high risk of
psychological stress problems may be affected by other mental or
physical problems, thus decreasing the biomarker’s efficiency in
predicting their prenatal psychological stress.