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Pregnancy and the early years of parenting can be stressful times for parents, and research has shown that in some cases, high levels of stress may lead to premature births; low-birthweight infants; infant mortality; and health, development, and learning challenges in infancy and early childhood. This knowledge path directs readers to a selection of current, high-quality resources that describe some of the sources of stress that pregnant women and new mothers experience and the impact of maternal distress on the developing fetus and young child. The knowledge path points to policies, programs, and practices that enhance a woman's ability to cope with stress, provide social and emotional support for pregnant women and new mothers, and build protective factors in new families. Health professionals, program administrators, policymakers, and researchers can use this knowledge path to learn more about maternal distress and child outcomes, to integrate what they know into their work in new ways to improve care, for program development, and to locate training resources and information to answer specific questions. A separate brief lists resources for families. This knowledge path has been developed by the MCH Library at Georgetown University and will be updated periodically.

View Related MCH Library Resources for guides about child maltreatment, depression during and after pregnancy, domestic violence, infant mortality, prematurity and preterm birth, and more.


See Positively Moms, a 3-year initiative by the William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation to develop, deliver, and evaluate research-based interventions to reduce distress in pregnant women and mothers of young children.

See Egerter S, Braveman P, Barclay C. 2011. How Social Factors Shape Health: Stress and Health. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). This issue brief describes the links between socioeconomic status, stress, and health. Stress during the prenatal period and in infancy are among the health outcomes addressed.

Also view Unraveling the Mystery of Black-White Differences in Infant Mortality (2008), which examines the cumulative stress of racism on pregnancy outcomes. This video clip is part of the documentary series Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?

Resources for Professionals


Additional Electronic Resources

This section contains policy and research reports. For clinical literature, see the PubMed sample searches.


See the following set of MCH Library resource briefs to identify additional data and statistics, literature and research (including leading researchers), and programs about maternal distress in the perinatal period and child outcomes.

Data and Statistics

Literature and Research Databases

Programs Databases

Interventions to Reduce or Manage Maternal Distress

Resources for Women and Their Families

Related MCH Library Resources

Maternal Distress in the Perinatal Period and Child Outcomes: Knowledge Path. (January 2013). (Updated: August 2014).

Authors: Susan Brune Lorenzo, M.L.S., MCH Library; Olivia K. Pickett, M.A., M.L.S., MCH Library.
Reviewers: Rebekah L. Dorman, Ph.D., Cuyahoga County Office of Early Childhood/Invest in Children; Leah S. Gary, M.S., The William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation; Rochelle Mayer, Ed.D., National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health; Molly O'Neill, The William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation; Deborah F. Perry, Ph.D., Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development (GUCCHD); Rebecca Stone, The William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation; S. Darius Tandon, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Editor: Ruth Barzel, M.A., MCH Library.
Funded by: William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation.