Preeclampsia is characterized by hypertension with proteinuria which threatens the health of the mother and fetus. The pathogenesis of preeclampsia is only partially understood. Abnormalities in the development of placental vasculature early in pregnancy may result in placental underperfusion which then causes hypertension. However, it is not clear what causes abnormal placentation to develop. It is suggested that maternal stress during pregnancy constitutes a risk factor for preeclampsia, but research to date is limited and mostly measured stress after birth.

The SPECHT-study is a collaboration between the Radboud University, RadboudUMC and the Canisius hospital, Nijmegen. This study will be the first to use physiological and psychological measurements of stress during pregnancy to predict the onset of early-onset and late-onset preeclampsia. Secondly, we will also investigate whether stress is related to worsening of preeclampsia. At Radboudumc, women with early-onset preeclampsia are hospitalized and pregnancy is temporized. This time in the hospital can be stressful for the mother. Research in non-clinical samples found that prenatal stress is related to adverse perinatal outcomes, including shorter gestations. Nevertheless, it is unknown if stress during hospitalization for preeclampsia can affect maternal disease progression and possibility to prolong pregnancy.