Many women experience some anxiety during pregnancy, but 15 percent of all pregnant women suffer symptoms severe enough to impact negatively on their day-to-day lives. Evidence suggests that a substantial proportion of women experiencing antenatal anxiety are going undetected and, consequently, not receiving any support.
Currently, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommends using a generic anxiety-screening tool, which may not be sensitive enough for women during pregnancy.
The symptoms identified by the review as being robust indicators in the diagnosis of antenatal anxiety will form part of a new scale, currently being developed by Mr Sinesi and colleagues.
“The overall aim of the research is to develop a screening scale for antenatal anxiety that can be used by midwives and other health professionals to identify women with elevated levels of anxiety during pregnancy,” Mr Sinesi said. “The symptoms identified are now being used to develop a short and easy-to-complete screening tool to identify women experiencing more serious antenatal anxiety – and rule out women who are experiencing normal pregnancy-related anxiety.”
Mr Sinesi was supported in the study by Professor Helen Cheyne, Deputy Director at NMAHP-RU and Royal College of Midwives (Scotland) Professor of Midwifery; Professor Margaret Maxwell, Director of NMAHP-RU; and Professor Ronan O’Carroll, a clinical and health psychologist based in Stirling’s Faculty of Natural Sciences.
The paper, Anxiety scales used in pregnancy: systematic review, is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open and was funded through a Doctoral Training Fellowship from the Chief Scientist Office, part of the Scottish Government Health Directorates.