Anxiety during pregnancy has not been as widely studied as depression during pregnancy however studies have shown that anxiety during pregnancy can affect both the mother and her unborn child. Women who experience anxiety during pregnancy experience more symptoms of morning sickness and use more sick days. Anxiety during pregnancy is also related to more scheduled cesarean deliveries and use of epidural pain relief. Women who experience anxiety during pregnancy are also at an increased risk of postpartum depression
Infants born to women who experience anxiety during pregnancy experience pre-term birth, lower infant birth weight, fetal growth restriction and lower Apgar score after birth. When a women experiences anxiety during pregnancy it may also affect the future development of her child. One study suggested that 22% of children who had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) had mothers who had experienced anxiety during pregnancy. Nine percent of 8- to 9-year old children of mothers who experienced anxiety during pregnancy also exhibited symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety during pregnancy is more likely among women with a lower education level and economic status as well as little social support. However, the risk of anxiety during pregnancy goes up with age and is also related to the number of pregnancies a women has had, and how many of those pregnancies resulted in live births. However, if a woman has a spiritual belief system which is centered on the belief in God, or a high power, the risk of anxiety during pregnancy decreases.
Studies show that spirituality lessens the likelihood of anxiety during pregnancy because the mother’s spiritual beliefs impact the way in which she deals with the typical stress that accompanies pregnancy, even in the event of a high-risk pregnancy. The research shows that pregnant women who have a spiritual belief system tend to believe that God, or a higher power, has a purpose for ever circumstance and that that purpose will prevail.
With these findings in mind nursing professionals and researchers have called for an assessment of the presence of spiritual beliefs in pregnant women. Studies have shown that although the presence of anxiety before pregnancy is a good indicator of the likelihood of anxiety during pregnancy, many women may present with symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy with no previous history. To this, researchers suggest that women who do not associate with a spiritual belief system be monitored for signs and symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy.
Dunn, L. L., Handley, M. C. & Shelton, M. M. (2007) Spiritual well-being, anxiety and depression in antepartal women on bedrest. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 28, 1235-1246.
Faisal-Cury, A., & Menezes, P. (2007). Prevalence of anxiety and depression during pregnancy in a private setting sample. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 10(1), 25-32. doi:10.1007/s00737-006-0164-6.
Mann, J. R, McKeown, R. E., Bacon, J., Vesselinov, R. & Bush, F (2008) Religiosity, spirituality and antenatal anxiety in Southern U.S. women. Archives of Women’s Health, 11, 19-26.