Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 311–319 | Cite as

The prevalence and incidence of perinatal anxiety disorders among women experiencing a medically complicated pregnancy

  • Nichole FairbrotherEmail author
  • Allan H. Young
  • Areiyu Zhang
  • Patricia Janssen
  • Martin M. Antony
Original Article


Over 20% of pregnancies involve medical difficulties that pose some threat to the health and well-being of the mother, her developing infant, or both. We report on the first comparison of the prevalence and incidence of maternal anxiety disorders (AD) in pregnancy and the postpartum, across levels of medical risk in pregnancy. Pregnant women (N = 310) completed postnatal screening measures for anxiety. Women who scored at or above cutoff on one or more of the screening measures were administered a diagnostic interview (n = 115) for AD. Pregnancies were classified into low, moderate, or high risk based on self-report and contact with high-risk maternity clinics. The incidence of AD in pregnancy was higher among women classified as experiencing a medically moderate or high-risk pregnancy, compared with women classified as experiencing a medically low-risk pregnancy. Across risk groups, there were no differences in AD prevalence or in the incidence of AD in the postpartum. Demographic characteristics and parity did not contribute meaningfully to outcomes. Pregnancies characterized by medical risks are associated with an increased likelihood of new onset AD. Women experiencing medically complex pregnancies should be screened for anxiety and offered appropriate treatment.


Anxiety/anxiety disorders Medically high-risk pregnancy Epidemiology Pregnancy and postpartum 



We would like to express our immense gratitude to the study participants for their generous contribution of time and effort. We would also like to thank all of our staff and volunteers for their effort and dedication to the project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Funding/conflict of interest

This research was funded by the Auxiliary to BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre in a 2007 Funding Competition and awarded to Dr. Nichole Fairbrother. None of the authors listed on this manuscript have any affiliations, personal relationships, or financial involvement with any person or organization that places them in a position of conflict of interest with respect to the submitted materials.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nichole Fairbrother
    • 1
    Email author
  • Allan H. Young
    • 2
  • Areiyu Zhang
    • 3
  • Patricia Janssen
    • 4
  • Martin M. Antony
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Island Medical ProgramUniversity of British Columbia, Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s HealthVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and NeurosciencesKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyUniversity of Ottawa, Ottawa Fertility CentreOttawaCanada
  4. 4.UBC School of Population and Public HealthVancouverCanada
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada

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