Problematic behaviours associated with generalized anxiety disorder during pregnancy and the postpartum period: A thematic analysis Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most common anxiety disorders in pregnancy and the postpartum (perinatal) period. Perinatal women with GAD engage in problematic behaviours, yet the focus and function of these behaviours remain unknown.

    Objective

    Given that worry during the perinatal period is largely maternally focused, the objective of this study was to explore the accompanying behavioural features of GAD during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

    Design

    A qualitative study was conducted.

    Methods

    Twenty-five pregnant (n = 10) and postpartum (n = 15) women were recruited through clinical referrals and the Hamilton community. Following the completion of a semistructured diagnostic interview and symptom measures, participants participated in one of seven focus groups to learn about behaviours utilized in response to their worries. A thematic analysis was conducted to identify behaviour themes and subthemes in pregnant and postpartum women.

    Results

    Five behaviour themes and 12 subthemes were identified. Specifically, participants endorsed engaging in excessive reassurance seeking, checking and repeating, overcontrol, overpreparation and avoidance behaviours.

    Conclusions

    Our results confirm that perinatal women with GAD engage in comparable problematic behaviours to those with GAD in the general population, yet the presentation, frequency and focus of those behaviours differ. These findings have implications for theoretical formulations of GAD, and the clinical management of this disorder during the perinatal period.

publication date

  • June 18, 2022