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chronic stress, emotional intelligence, inflammation, perinatal



  1. Moore, Tiffany A.
  2. Case, Adam J.
  3. Mathews, Therese L.
  4. Epstein, Crystal Modde
  5. Kaiser, Katherine Laux
  6. Zimmerman, Matthew C.


Background: Allostatic load (AL) is a biopsychosocial model that suggests chronic psychosocial stress leads to physiological dysregulation and poor outcomes. The purpose of this study was to examine AL in pregnant women operationalized using proinflammatory cytokines and psychosocial indicators and perinatal outcomes.


Objectives: The aim of the study was to identify relationships between circulating cytokines/chemokines and the Prenatal Distress Questionnaire, the Maternal Antenatal Attachment Scale, the Emotional Quotient Inventory, the Life Experiences Scale, and demographics in pregnant women.


Methods: A cross-sectional design was used to recruit pregnant women between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation. Blood and stress/emotional indicators were obtained after informed consent. Plasma was abstracted to simultaneously measure 29 cytokines/chemokines using a multiplex array. Cytokine/chemokine levels were compared with continuous variables using Spearman's rho and with categorical variables using Mann-Whitney U.


Results: Twenty-five women with medically high-risk (n = 16) and low-risk (n = 9) pregnancies consented. Most women were White (68%) with a mean age of 29 years (SD = 5.9). Although several cytokines and chemokines showed significant correlations with the stress/emotional indicators, only interleukin-17A (IL-17A) was significantly associated with all of the indicators (Prenatal Distress Questionnaire: rs = .528, p = .012; Maternal Antenatal Attachment Scale: rs = -.439, p = .036; Emotional Quotient Inventory total: rs = -.545, p = .007), Life Experiences Scale (rs = .458, p = .032), birth weight (rs = -.499, p = .013), and race (p = .01).


Discussion: Increased levels of IL-17A, a known cytokine associated with chronic stress and with poor perinatal outcomes, were associated with high prenatal distress, low maternal attachment, and lower emotional intelligence in pregnant women. Increased levels of IL-17A also were associated with lower birth weight and non-White race. Results support the model of AL in pregnant women and highlight IL-17A as a potential biomarker of AL during pregnancy.