Stress reactivity and regulation in pregnant women with severe mental illness

Poster B59, Tuesday, October 9, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm, Essex Ballroom

Cindy Liu1, Maria Henriksen1, Hannah Zwiebel2, Nicole Varca3; 1Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 2Tufts University, 3Emmanuel College

The Mother Infant Mood and Emotion Study (MIMES) is a NIH-funded study to examine physiological stress reactivity in pregnant women with severe mental illness. We describe pilot data involving the physiological profiles of three women from the 2nd trimester of pregnancy: one healthy control (HC), one with bipolar disorder (BD), and another with major depressive disorder (MDD). The HC showed the lowest scores on standardized measures of depression, anxiety, and prenatal life stress compared to the women diagnosed with BD and MDD. To determine stress reactivity, we examined heart rate (HR), with heart rate variability (HRV), which represents physiological regulation. HR and HRV were measured continuously through each episode of the Stroop, a cognitive stress task (baseline, practice, assessment, recovery). The average HR across episodes was the highest for the woman with MDD (M=108.6) and the lowest for the HC (M=79.2). HR changes were negligible across all three participants. HRV was highest for the HC (M=6.3) but lowest for the woman with MDD (M=4.9) across episodes. Interestingly, HRV showed greater change across episodes for all with the average HRV being lower during practice and assessment compared to baseline and recovery. However, HC showed the greatest change in HRV from baseline to practice/assessment, and from practice/assessment to recovery compared to the other women. While our presentation will include a larger sample size, it appears that highly stressed pregnant women may be prone to higher HR baselines and lower levels of regulation during rest and recovery periods relative to healthy, non-stressed women.

Topic Area: Stress Responsivity

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