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Title: Assessing and Responding to Maternal Stress (ARMS) : antenatal psychosocial assessment in research and practice
Author: Darwin, Zoe
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 7898
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2013
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Background: Antenatal Psychosocial Assessment (APA) has recently been introduced into routine antenatal care, but the ways in which maternity service providers assess and respond to maternal stress are subject of debate. There is a lack of consensus on the instrument(s) of choice and lack of evidence regarding appropriate interventions. Further, national guidelines have not kept apace with the conceptual shift from ‘postnatal depression’ to ‘perinatal anxiety and depression’. Adopting the Medical Research Council Complex Interventions Framework, the ARMS research aimed to inform the development of interventions that support women who are experiencing, or at risk of, mild-moderate mental health disorder in pregnancy. Methods: A mixed methods approach was adopted. In the quantitative element (Study Part 1) participants (n=191) completed a questionnaire when attending for their first formal antenatal appointment, using a procedure and materials that had been previously tested in a pilot study. Details including mental health assessment and referrals were obtained from their health records, following delivery. In the qualitative element (Study Part 2) a sub-sample of women (n=22) experiencing high levels of maternal stress took part in up to three serial in-depth interviews during pregnancy and the early postnatal period.Findings: Maternal stress was found to be common. Using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) threshold of ≥10, approximately 1 in 4 women were classed as high depression (halving to 1 in 8 at the more conservative threshold of ≥13). Almost 1 in 3 women were classed as high anxiety, using the state scale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-S, threshold ≥41), compared with 1 in 5 using the two-item GAD (threshold ≥3). Fewer than half of the women identified as high anxiety were identified by both measures. Factor analyses of the symptom measures were consistent with wider literature suggesting a three-item anxiety component of the EPDS; however, concurrent validation using regression analyses did not indicate that the EPDS could be used as an anxiety case finding instrument. Women reported that maternal stress had significant impact on their lives that may not be captured with existing clinical approaches. Women commonly found it difficult to self-assess severity of maternal stress and the assessment process could itself act as an intervention. The research provided the first validation of the depression case finding questions in UK clinical practice. The Whooley items completed in clinical practice identified only half of the possible cases identified by the EPDS, at both commonly adopted EPDS thresholds. Inclusion of the Arroll 'help' question as a criterion improved specificity of the assessment completed in clinical practice but substantially compromised sensitivity, missing 9 in 10 possible cases. Women’s mental health history and treatment history were similarly under-reported, particularly concerning anxiety. APA was introduced into routine clinical practice without attention to topics of relevance to women, context of disclosure or to provision of adequate resources for consistently responding to identified need. Women experiencing, or at risk of, mild-moderate disorder were thus usually ineligible for further support. Implications: Care pathways are needed that encompass both assessing and responding to maternal stress, where communication with health professionals, subsequent referral and management are addressed. The development, implementation and evaluation of low-cost resources embedded in such pathways are a priority and the research presented in the thesis offers a foundation on which to build.
Supervisor: Wells, Adrian; Mcgowan, Linda; Edozien, Leroy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: maternal stress ; antenatal stress ; prenatal stress ; pregnancy-specific stress ; psychosocial stress ; perinatal mental health ; perinatal mental illness ; antenatal anxiety ; antenatal depression ; perinatal anxiety and depression ; psychosocial assessment ; screening ; Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale ; State-Trait Anxiety Inventory ; GAD-2 ; PHQ-2 ; Whooley questions ; Antenatal Risk Questionnaire ; complex intervention ; mixed methods ; Framework Analysis ; patient-centredness ; care pathway ; clinical pathway ; clinical guideline ; Health Services Research ; maternity