Pregnancy-specific anxiety and its association with background characteristics and health-related behaviors in a low-risk population

Myrte Westerneng, Anke B. Witteveen, J. Catja Warmelink, Evelien Spelten, Adriaan Honig, Paul de Cock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Background Pregnancy-specific anxiety is an important risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcomes. It is therefore needed to gain insight in which women are at risk for elevated levels (> 85th percentile) of pregnancy-specific anxiety. Additionally, given that unhealthy behaviour has been suggested as a possible pathway linking pregnancy-specific anxiety to adverse pregnancy outcomes, it is important to examine whether higher levels of pregnancy-specific anxiety are associated with negative health-related behaviours (smoking, alcohol use and too much weight gain). Methods Using a study sample of 4541 low-risk pregnant women who filled in the Pregnancy Related Anxiety Questionnaire-Revised (PRAQ-R), we first examined which socio-demographic, pregnancy-related and psychological background characteristics were significantly associated with a PRAQ-R score above the 85th percentile. Secondly, we examined the association between pregnancy-specific anxiety and self-reported health-related behaviours (smoking, alcohol use and too much weight gain) while controlling for significant background characteristics. For both research questions, backward regression analysis was applied. Results Results showed that nulliparity (OR=2.33, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.97–2.77), anxious or depressed mood (OR=3.29, 95% CI=2.74–3.94) and non-Dutch ethnicity, especially Turkish (OR=3.47, 95% CI=2.16–5.59) or Moroccan (OR=2.97, 95% CI=1.84–4.81), were most strongly associated with elevated pregnancy-specific anxiety levels. Women with higher pregnancy-specific anxiety levels were more likely to gain too much weight during pregnancy (odds ratio (OR) linear term=1.49, 95% CI=1.21–1.83), while both very low and high levels of pregnancy-specific anxiety were associated with smoking (OR linear term=0.13, 95% CI=0.04–0.45, OR quadratic term=1.81, 95% CI=1.32–2.47). No association with alcohol use was found. Conclusions In conclusion, our results show nulliparity, anxious or depressed mood and non-Dutch ethnicity as three major vulnerability factors for elevated levels of pregnancy-specific anxiety. Furthermore, our results show an association between pregnancy-specific anxiety and negative health-related behaviours, which is worth examining in future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-13
Number of pages8
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Early online date6 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 May 2017


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