The primary aim of this study is to develop and validate a screening tool specifically devised to detect significant anxiety during pregnancy.
During pregnancy, a substantial minority of women develop significant clinical anxiety that can have a negative effect on long-term health and wellbeing of mothers and babies. However, recent reviews have highlighted the lack of anxiety measures with strong psychometric properties for screening use with pregnant women. This study aims to fill this gap by developing a questionnaire to screen for significant antenatal anxiety. In the initial phase of research, a systematic review of the literature on existing anxiety measures and qualitative interviews with women with experience of antenatal anxiety were conducted to inform the generation of a large item pool for potential inclusion in the screening tool. In order to refine this initial item pool, experts in perinatal mental health were consulted in order to reach consensus on questions to be considered as important indicators of problematic anxiety in pregnancy. Subsequently, a preliminary version of the questionnaire will be administered to 50 pregnant women in a pilot study, in order to further reduce the number of questions and identify any items that may be unclear to respondents. In the final phase of the research, a larger sample of 200 women will be asked to complete the new scale and the questionnaire currently used by midwives to identify pregnant women experiencing anxiety. 60 of these women will also be assessed by a mental health specialist and the screening accuracy of the new scale will be compared to expert assessment. This will enable us to determine whether the new scale is an effective screening tool for anxiety in pregnancy.
This study is currently in progress. The expected outcome is a short and reliable questionnaire that can be used to identify women experiencing problematic antenatal anxiety. Such a tool would be highly valuable, assisting midwives and other health professionals, to recognise when women would benefit from further support and appropriately targeting mental health interventions.
Funder: Chief Scientist Office