Adapting and testing a brief intervention to reduce maternal anxiety during pregnancy (ACORN): report of a feasibility randomized controlled trial

Heather A. O’Mahen, Paul G. Ramchandani, Dorothy X. King, Leonie Lee-Carbon, Esther L. Wilkinson, Chloe Thompson-Booth, Jennifer Ericksen, Jeannette Milgrom, Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Sarah L. Halligan, Pasco Fearon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: We investigated the acceptability and feasibility of a new brief intervention for maternal prenatal anxiety within maternity services in London and Exeter, UK. Methods: One hundred fourteen pregnant individuals attending their 12-week scan at a prenatal clinic with elevated symptoms of anxiety (GAD-7 score of ≥7) were randomly assigned to either the ACORN intervention + Treatment as usual (TAU) (n = 57) or to usual care only (n = 57). The ACORN intervention consisted of 3 2-h group sessions, led by a midwife and psychological therapist, for pregnant individuals and their partners. The intervention included psychoeducation about anxiety, strategies for problem-sovling and tolerating uncertainty during pregnancy, including communicating about these with others, and mindfulness exercises. Results: Engagement rates with ACORN met or exceeded those in primary care services in England. In the intervention arm, 77% (n = 44) of participants attended at least one session, 51% (n = 29) were adherent, defined as attending two or more sessions. Feedback was positive, and participants in the ACORN treatment group demonstrated evidence of a larger drop in their levels of anxiety than the participants in the TAU-only group (Cohen’s d = 0.42). Conclusion: The ACORN intervention was acceptable to pregnant individuals and their partners and resulted in reductions in anxiety. With further evaluation in a larger-scale trial with child outcomes, there is significant potential for large scale public health benefit.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Antenatal
  • Anxiety
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomised controlled trial
  • Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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