Anxiety measures validated in perinatal populations: a systematic review

J Affect Disord. 2011 Sep;133(1-2):1-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2010.10.009. Epub 2010 Nov 13.


Background: Research and screening of anxiety in the perinatal period is hampered by a lack of psychometric data on self-report anxiety measures used in perinatal populations. This paper aimed to review self-report measures that have been validated with perinatal women.

Methods: A systematic search was carried out of four electronic databases. Additional papers were obtained through searching identified articles. Thirty studies were identified that reported validation of an anxiety measure with perinatal women.

Results: Most commonly validated self-report measures were the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scales (HADS). Of the 30 studies included, 11 used a clinical interview to provide criterion validity. Remaining studies reported one or more other forms of validity (factorial, discriminant, concurrent and predictive) or reliability. The STAI shows criterion, discriminant and predictive validity and may be most useful for research purposes as a specific measure of anxiety. The Kessler 10 (K-10) may be the best short screening measure due to its ability to differentiate anxiety disorders. The Depression Anxiety Stress Scales 21 (DASS-21) measures multiple types of distress, shows appropriate content, and remains to be validated against clinical interview in perinatal populations.

Limitations: Nineteen studies did not report sensitivity or specificity data. The early stages of research into perinatal anxiety, the multitude of measures in use, and methodological differences restrict comparison of measures across studies.

Conclusion: There is a need for further validation of self-report measures of anxiety in the perinatal period to enable accurate screening and detection of anxiety symptoms and disorders.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Psychometrics / instrumentation*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weights and Measures