The perinatal period, from pregnancy to the first year postpartum, is a transitional period that can result in anxiety and stress for some women. Perinatal anxiety and stress can adversely impact the physical and psychological health of women and children. Understanding women's lived experiences of perinatal anxiety and stress is essential to better support women. The aim of this qualitative evidence synthesis was to examine women's experiences and perceptions of, and barriers and facilitators to coping with, perinatal anxiety and stress.
Databases CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Maternity and Infant Care were searched from inception to June 2020. Eligible studies included women who were pregnant or up to one year postpartum and examined women's experiences of anxiety and/or stress during the perinatal period. Data were synthesised using thematic synthesis.
Of 20,318 identified articles, 13 studies met inclusion criteria and were included in this review. Five key themes emerged: Social support, women's experiences of healthcare, social norms and expectations, factors that impact on coping and mother and baby's health.
This review provided a comprehensive synthesis of perinatal anxiety and stress. Findings indicate that increased support for perinatal mental health in antenatal and postpartum care is needed. Addressing unrealistic expectations and conceptualisations of motherhood is also important to better support women. Enhancing women's social support networks and provision of clear and consistent information are also essential to support women and minimise stress and anxiety in the perinatal period.