Does Stress Cause Miscarriage?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Last Editorial Review: 8/21/2017

Ask the experts

Can stress cause a miscarriage?

Doctor's response

Stress has long been believed to be a contributing factor in miscarriage, although proof of the relationship has never been firmly established. However, in 2006, a significant study showed that miscarriages during the first three weeks of pregnancy were nearly three times as common among women with high stress hormone levels as among women with normal levels.

Cortisol, often termed the "stress hormone," is released by the body during times of stress. Chronic stress can result in abnormally high levels of the hormone. In the 2006 study, women in rural Guatemala were 2.7 times more likely to miscarry if they had elevated cortisol levels, and 90% of women in the study whose cortisol levels were high miscarried in the first three weeks of pregnancy.

This study certainly suggests that stress may be associated with miscarriage. More research and larger studies are needed to clarify the exact relationship of stress hormones and miscarriage.

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Last Editorial Review: 8/21/2017
Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


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