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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Correspondence to Nichole Fairbrother.

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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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Fairbrother, N., Young, A.H., Zhang, A. et al. The prevalence and incidence of perinatal anxiety disorders among women experiencing a medically complicated pregnancy. Arch Womens Ment Health 20, 311–319 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-016-0704-7

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Keywords

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