Maternal distress, HPA activity, and antenatal interventions: A systematic review.

Elsevier BV
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2020, 112
Issue Date:
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BACKGROUND:Elevated antenatal distress has been associated with negative outcomes for both mothers and, as a result, their infants. One mechanism hypothesised to underlie these associations is the maternal hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Though research has examined whether biopsychosocial antenatal interventions can reduce maternal HPA activity, only one review has summarized the nature of findings to date. The present study examined randomised control trials (RCTs) specifically; our primary aim was to assess the effectiveness of antenatal interventions in reducing HPA activity in pregnant women, our secondary aim was to examine whether antenatal interventions reduced maternal self-report of depression and/or anxiety. METHODS:This study systematically reviewed RCTs that evaluated biopsychosocial interventions that reported subjective and objective markers of maternal distress in pregnant women within the clinical population. RESULTS:Eight studies met inclusion criteria and women were in their second or third trimester. HPA-activity was primarily assessed through salivary cortisol (n = 7) and self-reported maternal distress was assessed using a variety of validated screening measures. Included trials demonstrated significant methodological heterogeneity and small sample sizes, poor treatment adherence, and poor reliability in cortisol measurement indicated low methodological quality. CONCLUSIONS:Due to the high heterogeneity across studies, small sample sizes, and unreliable sampling methods, firm conclusions about the efficacy and effectiveness of antenatal interventions cannot be drawn. Despite this, interventions which targeted pregnancy-specific influencers of maternal mood were more likely to result in reduced depression and anxiety symptomatology as reported by mothers.
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