THE RELATION BETWEEN PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS, TRAIT ANXIETY, AND MATERNAL BEHAVIORS DURING SONOGRAM PROCEDURES
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The aim of this study was to examine whether psychological distress and trait anxiety were related to positive (i.e., smiling and surprised) and negative (i.e., worried and sad) facial expressions and gaze towards the fetus during routine ultrasound procedures in the second trimester of pregnancy. Assessment of mood symptoms during the second trimester of pregnancy is important because it is when depression begins to have a negative impact biochemically, which may lead to adverse postnatal outcomes. Participants included a diverse group of 70 women in their second trimester of pregnancy. The Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21) and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Trait Form were used to assess psychological distress and trait anxiety, respectively. Videos of participants’ faces during their ultrasound examination were coded to assess facial expressions and gaze towards the fetus. Results of regression analyses indicated that higher levels of distress and trait anxiety were related to fewer smiles. Higher levels of distress also were related to longer durations of sad expressions. There was not a relation between duration of gaze towards the fetus and levels of distress and trait anxiety. These findings suggest that women’s negative facial expressions during routine sonograms may show that they are feeling distressed, and could indicate the need for more formal screening for depression and anxiety symptoms.