Pregnant Women’s Perceptions of Harms and Benefits of Mental Health Screening Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: A widely held concern of screening is that its psychological harms may outweigh the benefits of early detection and treatment. This study describes pregnant women's perceptions of possible harms and benefits of mental health screening and factors associated with identifying screening as harmful or beneficial. METHODS: This study analyzed a subgroup of women who had undergone formal or informal mental health screening from our larger multi-site, cross-sectional study. Pregnant women >16 years of age who spoke/read English were recruited (May-December 2013) from prenatal classes and maternity clinics in Alberta, Canada. Descriptive statistics were generated to summarize harms and benefits of screening and multivariable logistic regression identified factors associated with reporting at least one harm or affirming screening as a positive experience (January-December 2014). RESULTS: Overall study participation rate was 92% (N = 460/500). Among women screened for mental health concerns (n = 238), 63% viewed screening as positive, 69% were glad to be asked, and 87% took it as evidence their provider cared about them. Only one woman identified screening as a negative experience. Of the 6 harms, none was endorsed by >7% of women, with embarrassment being most cited. Women who were very comfortable (vs somewhat/not comfortable) with screening were more likely to report it as a positive experience. LIMITATIONS: Women were largely Caucasian, well-educated, partnered women; thus, findings may not be generalizable to women with socioeconomic risk. CONCLUSIONS: Most women perceived prenatal mental health screening as having high benefit and low harm. These findings dispel popular concerns that mental health screening is psychologically harmful.


  • Kingston, Dawn
  • Austin, Marie-Paule
  • McDonald, Sheila W
  • Vermeyden, Lydia
  • Heaman, Maureen
  • Hegadoren, Kathleen
  • Lasiuk, Gerri
  • Kingston, Joshua
  • Sword, Wendy
  • Jarema, Karly
  • Veldhuyzen van Zanten, Sander
  • McDonald, Sarah
  • Biringer, Anne

publication date

  • 2015