Maternal Emotional Health Before and After Birth Matters

  • Katherine BrightEmail author
  • Gisela Becker


In this chapter, the authors examine why emotional health during pregnancy matters. Stress, anxiety, and depression are the most common conditions that women face during pregnancy and the postpartum period. One in four women experience anxiety or depression during their pregnancy, making emotional health issues one of the top three pregnancy complications. These emotional factors influence the physiological stress response in women and may explain why maternal stress during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the unborn child. These include an increased risk of spontaneous abortion, preeclampsia in the later phase of pregnancy, preterm delivery including late preterm birth, reduced birth weight, and smaller head size.

Working with women, their partners, their families, and the wider community supports the reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression in expectant mothers. This promotes a healthy pregnancy and in utero environment that protects the development of the brain architect and function. Given the essential role that maternal emotional health during pregnancy plays in the long-term health of the unborn baby, it is important to identify emotional health concerns early. Referral to the most appropriate resources and providers and timely prenatal interventions aimed at reducing these symptoms are essential. A starting point for identifying emotional health concerns during pregnancy is to start prenatal visits with four questions: The Whooley Questions (two questions exploring depression) and the two-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-2) (two questions exploring anxiety).


Emotional health Mental health Maternal Pregnancy Prenatal Preterm birth Postpartum Stress Anxiety Depression 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of NursingUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Women’s Mental Health Clinic, Alberta Health ServicesCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.Department of Health and Community ServicesGovernment of Newfoundland and LabradorSt. John’sCanada

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