Introduction: Prenatal maternal stress (PNMS) is associated with suboptimal child development; however, it is unknown how aware pregnant women are of these facts. We aimed to improve understanding about women’s knowledge about, and interest in, the consequences of PNMS.
Methods: Our first cohort (n=100) was pregnant during the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire in Alberta. The second cohort (n=241) included Montreal mothers who were not exposed to a natural disaster in pregnancy. Both cohorts completed our questionnaire to assess their agreement with statements based on the PNMS literature. Women were also asked whether, during their last pregnancy, they would have liked to have known more about the potential consequences of PNMS.
Results: Although the cohorts differed significantly on income, education, and language, there was no difference between the two groups with respect to their interest in receiving information about PNMS: 67.2% of the total sample would have liked to have known more about this topic during their last pregnancy. In the exposed cohort, higher disaster-related PNMS levels (Peritraumatic Dissociative Experience Questionnaire (PDEQ)) were associated with better PNMS knowledge (r = 0.31, p <0.01), even in a multiple regression model controlling for sociodemographic variables and objective exposure to the natural disaster (p=0.012, 95%CI: [0.007; 0.054]). Women interested in receiving more information experienced higher PNMS levels (Peritraumatic Distress Inventory (PDI)) than those who were not interested (p=0.02, 95%CI: [1.18; 10.88]). Social support and age interacted with PNMS levels to predict their knowledge about PNMS (p<0.05).
Conclusion: We found in women from diverse backgrounds a generalized interest to know more about the potential effects of PNMS on their children, supporting the need for an awareness campaign.
Christian Dagenais– Professor, Université de Montréal
David P. Laplante– Research Associate, Douglas Hospital Research Centre
Guillaume Elgbeili– Statistician, Douglas Hospital Research Centre
Suzanne King– Professor, McGill University