The psychological burden of routine prenatal ultrasound on women's state anxiety across the three trimesters of pregnancy

Caterina Businelli, Stefano Bembich, Cristina Vecchiet, Caterina Cortivo, Alessia Norcio, Maria Francesco Risso, Mariachiara Quadrifoglio, Tamara Stampalija

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Although obstetric ultrasound examination has recognizable clinical and psychological benefits, it also involves some psychological burdens, mainly in terms of the woman's state anxiety, the level of which can change during pregnancy. This research aimed to study the influence of routine ultrasound examination on the woman's state anxiety and its relation with her personality background in the three trimesters of pregnancy. Study design: This work was a prospective interventional study. Women who underwent routine-screening ultrasound examinations in the first, second, or third trimester of pregnancy were recruited. The state anxiety level was assessed using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory - subscale S (S-Anxiety), administered immediately before and after the exams. More stable personality characteristics were evaluated before ultrasound, assessing trait anxiety by State-Trait Anxiety Inventory - subscale T (T-Anxiety) and psychological coping by Coping Orientations to Problem Experienced (COPE). The S-Anxiety scores, collected immediately before and after the exams, were compared by two-tailed paired t-test. Moreover, S-Anxiety scores collected in each one of the three-trimester groups immediately before and after the exams were compared by one-way between groups ANOVA. Relations among S-Anxiety scores with more stable aspects of personality (T-Anxiety and COPE scores) were also studied, by correlation analysis. Results: A total of 285 women were recruited. In all trimesters, S-Anxiety scores decreased significantly after the exam (P < 0.001), with a more relevant reduction in women with higher T-Anxiety scores (P < 0.001). A gradual decrease in S-Anxiety scores before the examination was seen across the three trimesters, with significantly higher scores in the first trimester (P = 0.016). Before ultrasound, S-Anxiety score resulted positively correlated with avoidance coping strategies (P < 0.001), while it was inversely related to active coping style (P < 0.001) and positive aptitude (P < 0.001). Conclusions: The psychological burden of prenatal ultrasound in the different trimesters of pregnancy was studied. Clinicians should be sensitive to women's state anxiety during prenatal routine-screening ultrasound examination, using a personalized approach. Particular attention should be paid to the psychological burden associated with ultrasound evaluation of the first trimester, when the level of the anxiety state is higher.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-286
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Pregnancy trimesters
  • Prenatal ultrasound
  • STAI
  • State anxiety
  • Women experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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