randombio.com | commentary
Monday, November 14, 2016

Todd Akin was right

Epidemiologists have discovered that stress induces spontaneous pregnancy loss.

I n 2012 Missouri Representative Todd Akin was drummed out of the race for saying that under severe stress such as rape, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing [pregnancy] down.” Even very few conservatives backed him up. People cared more about the election than scientific truth.

Now researchers at the University of California Irvine[1] have done an epidemiological study and confirmed his hypothesis. From the Introduction:

The literature, although not without null findings on pregnancy loss before 22 weeks (10), further indicates a positive relationship between self-reported severe life events in the months before conception and chromosomally normal spontaneous losses at earlier stages of pregnancy (≥11 weeks) (11). This work, in conjunction with evidence of elevated maternal cortisol levels among early pregnancy losses, supports the plausibility of pregnancy disruption by life stressors (12).

From their discussion:

Speculation that stress induces pregnancy loss dates back at least to biblical times (I Samuel 4:19). Our work extends reports of elevated pregnancy loss following rare ambient stressors (e.g., China's Cultural Revolution, life-threatening rocket attacks) (39, 40) in that we examined a more common stressor over which society arguably exerts collective control.

We tested whether increases in the unemployment rate preceded increases in the number of spontaneous abortions in Denmark. Consistent with the hypothesis,we found that numbers of spontaneous abortions rose above their expected value 1 month after the unemployment rate unexpectedly increased. A secondary analysis using quarterly data on consumption of durable household goods to gauge ambient financial uncertainty provided a similar inference.

Conclusion: Todd Akin was right.

[1]. Bruckner TA, Mortensen LH, Catalano RA. (2016). Spontaneous Pregnancy Loss in Denmark Following Economic Downturns. Am J Epidemiol. Apr 15;183(8):701–708. Link

Related Articles

Stress and Reproductive Fertility
A politician has created a furor by claiming the body has some protective mechanism to prevent unwanted pregnancy. But is that really true? What are the scientific facts?

On the Internet, no one can tell whether you're a dolphin or a porpoise
Name and address

more commentary

book reviews