Dennis CL, Brown HK, Brennenstuhl S, Vigod S, Miller A, et al. (2022) Preconception risk factors and health care needs of pregnancy-planning women and men with a lifetime history or current mental illness: A nationwide survey. PLOS ONE 17(6): e0270158. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0270158
While depression and anxiety are common in women and men of reproductive age, preconception interventions to optimize the health of individuals with mental illness before pregnancy is limited and focuses primarily on psychotropic medication management. Comparing individuals with depression, anxiety, and comorbidity to those with neither condition, we identified areas of preconception care optimization related to psychosocial risk factors, general physical health, medication use, and uptake of high-risk health behaviours. We also investigated differences in preconception health care use, attitudes, and knowledge.
We conducted a nationwide survey of 621 women (n = 529) and men (n = 92) across Canada who were planning a pregnancy within five years, including those with lifetime or current depression (n = 38), anxiety (n = 55), and comorbidity (n = 104) and those without mental illness (n = 413). Individuals with depression, anxiety, and comorbidity were compared to individuals without mental illness using logistic regression, adjusted for age, sex, and education level.
Individuals with a lifetime or current mental illness were significantly more likely to have several risk factors for suboptimal reproductive and perinatal outcomes, including increased rates of obesity, stress, fatigue, loneliness, number of chronic health conditions, and medication use. Further, they were more likely to have high-risk health behaviours including increased substance use, internet addiction, poorer eating habits, and decreased physical activity. By assessing depression, anxiety, or both separately, we also determined there was variation in risk factors by mental illness type.
Our nationwide study is one of the first and largest to examine the preconception care needs of women and men with a lifetime or current mental illness who are pregnancy-planning. We found this population has many important reproductive and perinatal risk factors that are modifiable via preconception interventions which could have a significant positive impact on their health trajectories and those of their future children.