Bloom, T. L., Bullock, L. F., & Parsons, L.; “Rural pregnant women’s stressors and priorities for stress reduction;” Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 2012, 33(12), 813-819; DOI: 10.3109/01612840.2012.712087.
Rural residence and maternal stress are risk factors for adverse maternal-child health outcomes across the globe, but rural women have been largely overlooked in maternal stress research. We recruited low-income, rural pregnant women for qualitative interviews to explore their stress exposures during pregnancy, reactions to stress, and priorities for stress reduction. We also used quantitative measures (Perceived Stress Scale, Center for Epidemiologic Studies of Depression Scale-Revised, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian, Lifetime Exposure to Violence Scale) to describe stress exposures and reactions. We interviewed 24 pregnant rural women from a Midwestern US state, who were primarily young, white, partnered, and unemployed. Women’s predominant stressor was financial stress, compounded by a lack of employment, transportation, and affordable housing options; extended family interdependence; small-town gossip; isolation/loneliness; and boredom. Quantitative measures revealed high levels of global perceived stress, violence exposure, and symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder among the sample. Women most commonly reported that employment and interventions to increase their employability would most effectively decrease their stress, but faced numerous barriers to education or job training. Tested maternal stress interventions to date include nurse-case management, teaching women stress management techniques, and mind-body interventions. Pregnant women’s own priorities for stress-reduction intervention may differ, depending on the population under study. Our findings suggest that rural clinicians should address maternal stress, violence exposure, and mental health symptoms in prenatal care visits and that clinicians and researchers should include the voices of rural women in the conceptualization, design, implementation, and evaluation of maternal stress-reduction interventions.