How do prenatal people describe their experiences with anxiety? a qualitative analysis of blog content

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Pierce, Shayna K.
Reynolds, Kristin A.
Hardman, Madison P.
Furer, Patricia
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Abstract Background Despite elevated prevalence rates of prenatal (antenatal) anxiety across studies (13–21%), and prenatal people’s use of the Internet to search for pregnancy-related information and support, research investigating prenatal people’s experiences with online mental health communication, such as blogs, is lacking. This study examined blog entries focused on anxiety in pregnancy to better understand prenatal people’s Internet discourse concerning their experiences with anxiety. Methods A Google search using the keywords “anxiety,” “pregnant,” and “blog” resulted in N = 18 blogs that met inclusion criteria (public blog written in English describing a personal experience with prenatal anxiety in 250 words or more). Blog content was analyzed using a thematic analytic approach based on grounded theory principles. Results Three main themes capturing prenatal people’s experiences with anxiety as written in public blog content were developed from qualitative analyses: 1) etiology (subthemes: before pregnancy, during the current pregnancy, related to a previous pregnancy), 2) triggers (subthemes: uncertainty, perceived lack of control, and guilt and shame for not having a normal pregnancy), and 3) symptoms (subthemes: intertwined emotional, cognitive and physical symptoms, in addition to behavioural symptoms). Conclusions Our findings demonstrate a need for perinatal professionals to address anxiety symptoms and triggers in pregnancy. One way to address this may be by providing credible information regarding prenatal mental and physical health to pregnant people through online mediums, such as blogs. Bloggers often discussed experiencing a combination of emotional, cognitive, physical, and behavioural symptoms, which suggests that medical and mental health professionals should work collaboratively to provide care for prenatal people experiencing anxiety. Furthermore, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) addresses these types of symptoms, which suggests that interventions developed or adapted to meet this populations’ needs could employ this therapeutic approach. Future research should explore the reasons why prenatal people experiencing anxiety engage with blogs, the characteristics of bloggers and readers, the impact of the blogging experience on both the blogger and their audience, and the information quality of blog content.
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2022 May 10;22(1):398