For many women pregnancy, and having a young baby, is a time of excitement and joy, with some added nervousness and worries too. But this is not the case for all women. For some, a time that should be a positive and enjoyable experience, is overshadowed by a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression. In fact approximately a fifth of women have a mental health issue during pregnancy, or in the first year after their baby is born. This can have a devastating impact on the woman herself and those close to her. It can also be harmful for the young child who is more likely to experience behavioural, social and emotional difficulties.
One of the most common mental health issues is anxiety, and this affects about 15% of women. At the moment, pregnant women are asked two questions about their anxiety, and dependent on their answers they may be referred for additional support or treatment. However, it is unclear whether these two questions are the best for identifying anxiety during pregnancy and after birth. Consequently some women with anxiety may be missed and so do not receive the additional help they need.
The MAP Study
We, at City, University of London are working with the University of Stirling in collaboration with the NCT and Maternal Mental Health Change Agents to identify the best questions to ask women who are pregnant and have recently given birth to detect anxiety. In addition to the two questions women are already asked, we are comparing four questionnaires that, based on evidence to date, may work well.
Our MAP study has three stages:
- This stage of the project is underway. We are asking women their views on the questionnaires and how they feel when asked about anxiety during pregnancy and after birth. To ensure that we capture information throughout pregnancy and shortly after birth, women are being asked about this at one of four time points. Either at 12, 22 or 31 weeks of pregnancy, or 6 weeks after the birth of their baby. We are including women with and without anxiety as this reflects women who will be completing these questionnaires during their antenatal and postnatal appointments.
- The second stage focuses on finding out which of the questionnaires is best at identifying women who need further treatment, and which time point the questionnaires are best used. Women will complete the questionnaires at all four time points (12, 22 and 31 weeks pregnancy, and 6 weeks after birth), and will also be interviewed about their mental health.
- Based on the results of the first two stages, we will know which questionnaire is best at identifying anxiety in pregnant women and in women who have recently had a baby. We will ask healthcare professionals in England and Scotland their opinions about this questionnaire and how acceptable and practical they find it to use.
We are inviting pregnant women and women who have given birth up to six weeks ago to take part. We would like to hear from women who have experienced mental health issues during their pregnancy or after the birth, and women who have not. If you would like to take part, or have any questions about the study please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide you with further details. If you know anyone else who might be interested, please give them the opportunity of taking part by copy and pasting the link to this blog and forwarding it to them.
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This project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), HS&DR Programme (17/105/16). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.