Women's health in early pregnancy: Findings from an australian nulliparous cohort study

Deirdre Gartland, Stephanie Brown, Susan Donath, Susan Perlen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Much is known about severe maternal morbidity during pregnancy, but there has been little attention paid to the impact of pregnancy itself on women's general health and well-being. Aim: To investigate women's general health and well-being in early pregnancy and examine the relationship between maternal age and women's physical and mental health. Method: Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from a multicentre, prospective nulliparous pregnancy cohort study. The baseline questionnaire included the SF-36 health status measure and individual items assessing a range of common maternal health issues. Results: A total of 1507 eligible women returned baseline questionnaires in early pregnancy (mean gestation 15 weeks, range 6-24 weeks) ranging from 18 to 49 years of age (mean age 30.1 years). Study participants reported significantly poorer health compared with age and gender-standardised population means on all SF-36 scales except general health. Two-thirds of women (68%) reported three or more health issues, the most common being exhaustion (87%), nausea (64%), back pain (46%), constipation (44%) and severe headaches/migraines (30%). Younger women (18-24 years) had significantly lower SF-36 scores (poorer self perceived health) compared with women ≥35 (P ≤ 0.03). After adjusting for socio-demographic factors, maternal age remained significantly positively associated with women's mental and physical component scores. Younger women reported significantly more health issues than women ≥35 (4.39 and 3.27, mean difference = 1.12, 95% CI 0.75-1.79, P > 0.001). Conclusions: Common pregnancy symptoms have a marked impact on women's physical and mental health in early pregnancy, with the greatest impact apparent for younger women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-418
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Maternal age
  • Maternal health
  • Nulliparous
  • Pregnancy
  • SF-36

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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