Anxiety disorders and personality dysfunction in pregnancy

This project will investigate whether anxiety and personality disorders experienced in pregnancy are associated with difficulties in interaction between mothers and their babies. 

The research team will visit mothers in their homes to carry out a play session between mothers and their three-month-old babies using the CARE index. These face-to-face assessments will form part of an existing study which is examining the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of perinatal mental health services and which is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Context

Research has shown that depression in pregnancy can be associated with problems in mother-infant interaction, and that such difficulties may lead to adverse emotional and behavioural outcomes in children. This project is the first systematic investigation into a representative group of women with anxiety or personality disorders and the impact of these disorders on the interaction between mothers and babies. The findings could enable healthcare providers to identify women at risk and offer early interventions to break the intergenerational transmission of risk from mothers to their children.  

Research questions
  1. Are anxiety disorders in pregnant women associated with reduced maternal sensitivity, increased maternal unresponsiveness and more controlling mother-infant interactions compared with pregnant women with no mental disorder?
  2. Is personality dysfunction in pregnant women associated with reduced maternal sensitivity, increased maternal unresponsiveness and more controlling mother-infant interactions compare with pregnant women with no mental disorder?

Participants for the study are being recruited from women who attend their antenatal appointment at King's College Hospital in London. Approximately half the sample responded positively to two screening questions about low mood, and half negatively.