Background: Recent evidence suggests that anxiety is more common than depression in the perinatal period, however there are few interventions available to treat perinatal anxiety. Targeting specific processes that maintain anxiety, such as worry, may be one potentially promising way to reduce anxiety in this period. Given evidence that negative interpretation bias maintains worry, we tested whether interpretation bias could be modified, and whether this in turn would lead to less negative thought (i.e., worry) intrusions, in pregnant women with high levels of worry.
Method: Participants (N = 49, at least 16 weeks gestation) were randomly assigned to either an interpretation modification condition (CBM-I) which involved training in accessing positive meanings of emotionally ambiguous scenarios, or an active control condition in which the scenarios remained ambiguous and unresolved.
Results: Relative to the control condition, participants in the CBM-I condition generated significantly more positive interpretations and experienced significantly less negative thought intrusions.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that worry is a modifiable risk factor during pregnancy, and that it is possible to induce a positive interpretation bias in pregnant women experiencing high levels of worry. Although preliminary, our findings speak to exciting clinical possibilities for the treatment of worry and the prevention of perinatal anxiety.
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- Colette R. Hirsch, Frances Meeten, Calum Gordon, Jill M. Newby, Debra Bick, Michelle L. Moulds, Repetitive Negative Thinking and Interpretation Bias in Pregnancy , Clinical Psychology in Europe: Vol. 2 No. 4 (2020)