Screening women for distress during pregnancy: the impact of including ‘Possibly’ as a response option

Publication Name

Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology


Objectives: To investigate the impact of including the response option of ‘Possibly’ in the Distress question on the Matthey Generic Mood Questionnaire (MGMQ) during antenatal emotional health screening in English-speaking women. Background: Some distress screening questions only allow respondents to choose between ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the presence of distress. The MGMQ, however, allows respondents to chose between ‘Yes’, ‘Possibly’, or ‘No’, which may be preferable if a participant is reluctant to state she definitely feels distressed. Method: In Study 1, women undergoing routine antenatal psychosocial screening were allocated to either completing the MGMQ Distress question with the usual three-option response format of ‘Yes, Possibly, No’ (N = 960), or just a ‘Yes, No’ response format (N = 771). The proportion of responses were compared in each group, as were the proportion then screening positive on the MGMQ’s Bother question. In Study 2, women (N = 113) attending routine antenatal clinic appointments were asked about their preference between these response formats. Results: Including ‘Possibly’ resulted in only a slight increase in the proportion giving a positive response to the Distress question, and then also screening positive on the Bother question. In Study 2, a substantial majority of women (80%) preferred having ‘Possibly’ in the response options. Conclusion: While the impact of including ‘Possibly’ is small, it allows for more women to communicate how they are feeling on the full MGMQ. Given the large majority of women preferring having ‘Possibly’ included, we believe that the Distress Question is enhanced by having this as a response option.

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