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


  • 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).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 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.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.


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

publication date

  • 2017