Objective: The postpartum period is recognized as a time of vulnerability to affective disorders, particularly postpartum depression. In contrast, the prevalence and clinical presentation of anxiety disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period have received little research attention. In this article, we review the medical literature as it relates to the prevalence and clinical presentation of panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Data sources: MEDLINE (1966 to July 2005 week 1) and PsycInfo (1840 to July 2005 week 1) were searched using combinations of the following search terms: pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, panic disorder, phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Study selection: All relevant papers published in English and reporting original data related to perinatal anxiety disorders were included.
Data extraction: Studies were examined for data related to the prevalence, presentation, predictors/risk factors, new onset, course, and treatment of anxiety disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Data synthesis: Anxiety disorders are common during the perinatal period, with reported rates of obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder being higher in postpartum women than in the general population. The perinatal context of anxiety disorders presents unique issues for detection and management.
Conclusions: Future research is needed to estimate the prevalence of perinatal anxiety disorders more precisely, to identify potential implications of maternal anxiety disorders for maternal quality of life and child development, and to determine safe and effective treatment methods.