By MARYANNE TWENTYMAN - Waikato Times
A Waikato University study hopes to understand the reasons for pre-natal stress in pregnant women and their partners.
More than 100 pregnant women are taking part in the psychology department study which hopes to attract more research subjects over the next few weeks.
Clinical psychologist Dr Carrie Barber said it was important to have a range of subjects to study as it would result in better data and a wider understanding of pre-natal stress.
"We have accessed many pregnant women through antenatal groups but we really want to target a large cross-section of the community including single parents, couples, different ethnic groups and demographs," Dr Barber said.
To date little research is available on the effects of stress on pregnant women, their partners and their babies, according to Dr Barber, who said pregnancy could create anxiety and stress for all involved.
"We often hear about both pre and post-natal depression but we need to understand what creates the stress in pregnancy and learn to manage it more effectively."
Dr Barber said it was not uncommon for partners to experience "sympathetic symptoms" during a pregnancy.
"They can experience their own medical symptoms including headaches, nausea and weight gain so we are hoping to understand why this happens," Dr Barber said.
Seven Waikato University students are conducting the research including masters and honours students who each have different aspects they wish to cover.
"One student is particularly interested in the effects on partners and fathers, another is specifically interested in Maori pregnancies, and another student is concentrating on IVF pregnancies."
The study requires pregnant women and their partners to fill out questionnaires which can be done online or manually.
"We will assess the data and try to understand it.
"We already know that some people can be under immense stress and handle it well, while others can be under moderate stress and they simply can't cope – we need to understand why and work out what can be done to manage stress and anxiety levels."
Dr Barber said many areas of pregnancy could be stressful, particularly when hospitals were involved.
"Women have people treating them, hooking them up to machines in a foreign environment – that can be really stressful."
The study is expected to take about six months with the research to be presented at the NZ College of Midwives conference later in the year.
"After the presentations the information will be written up for publication," Dr Barber said.
Anyone interested in taking part in the study can register online at waikato.ac.nz.