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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 109-113

Perceived hassles and uplifts and their impact on perceived cognitive performance during pregnancy: Apilot study

1 Department of Psychiatry, D Y Patil School of Medicine, Nerul, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Psychiatry, Dr. D Y Patil Medical College, Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India
3 Department of Psychiatry, J J Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication8-Dec-2017

Correspondence Address:
Devavrat G Harshe
Department of Psychiatry, Dr. D Y Patil Medical College, 839, E, Kasaba Bavada, Kolhapur.6, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aip.aip_37_17

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Context: Stress during pregnancy manifests as mood disorders and anxiety disorders. Recently, many studies have reported cognitive disturbances in pregnancy after subjective interviews as well as objective evaluation. Aims: The aim of the study was to assess pregnancy-specific distress and perceived cognitive functions in an urban sample of pregnant women. Methodology: Sixty working pregnant women, educated up to standard 12thor above, were evaluated cross-sectionally with pregnancy upscale-downscale scale and cognitive failure questionnaire. Results: Women identified events related to the infant's looks and appearances as most uplifting, whereas physical symptoms and consequences of pregnancy as most distressing. Women reported tasks involving recent and working memory to be most impaired, whereas tasks involving procedural memory, spatial memory, and long-term memory were least affected. Severity of hassles perceived by pregnant women was identified as the predictor of perceived cognitive decline in pregnancy. Conclusions: Events in a normal pregnancy can be perceived as either uplifting or distressing. Perceived distress affects the perception of one's own cognitive performance.

Keywords: Cognition, hassles, pregnancy, pregnancy-specific anxiety, stress, uplifts

How to cite this article:
Shah B, Harshe DG, Shah H, Shetty N, Shenoy A, Ramakrishnan A, Cholera R, Kale S. Perceived hassles and uplifts and their impact on perceived cognitive performance during pregnancy: Apilot study. Ann Indian Psychiatry 2017;1:109-13

How to cite this URL:
Shah B, Harshe DG, Shah H, Shetty N, Shenoy A, Ramakrishnan A, Cholera R, Kale S. Perceived hassles and uplifts and their impact on perceived cognitive performance during pregnancy: Apilot study. Ann Indian Psychiatry [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Jan 31];1:109-13. Available from: https://www.anip.co.in/text.asp?2017/1/2/109/220255

  Introduction Top

Pregnancy is an experience filled with feelings of delight, pride, warmth, and love. Not only the pregnant woman, but the entire family celebrates all the events associated with a normal pregnancy. Experiencing each of these events is a part and parcel of a normal pregnancy which brings immense joy to the pregnant women and her family.

Pregnancy imparts a significant physical, psychological, and emotional toll on the mother. This can manifest in many ways as depression and mood disorders and anxiety disorders with a prevalence of 8%–30%.[1] Anxiety can also arise from pregnancy-related events and developments, which has been labeled as pregnancy-specific anxiety (physical activity printarticle.asp?issn=2588-8358;year=2017;volume=1;issue=2;spage=109;epage=113;aulast=Shah).[2] Apart from mood and anxiety disorders, many studies [3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17],[18],[19],[20],[21],[22],[23],[24],[25],[26],[27],[28] have demonstrated cognitive decline in pregnant women on subjective interviews as well as objective evaluations. A recent meta-analysis [29] supported these observations, limited to only a few domains of cognitive function. Mood and anxiety disorders can cause cognitive decline. Existing literature shows that cognitive decline in pregnancy may develop even in the absence of these disorders. Most of the studies, however, have evaluated the role of state and trait anxiety on cognitive functions during pregnancy; however, we could not find a study evaluating the impact of PA on subjective cognitive functions during pregnancy. This study was thereby conducted to evaluate the impact of PA on subjective perception of cognitive functions in pregnant women in an urban setting in Western India.

  Methodology Top

Site and design

The study was conducted at the psychiatry and obstetrics-gynecology OPD at a tertiary care teaching hospital in India. Institutional Ethics Committee approval was obtained, and the study was conducted in a cross-sectional design.


Sixty pregnant women were recruited by serial sampling, after obtaining a written informed consent. The inclusion criteria were(1) pregnant, working women between ages 18 and 35years,(2) registered at the antenatal care clinic of the tertiary care teaching hospital, and(3) educated till higher secondary certificate examination(standard 12th) or above. Exclusion criteria included(1) women with a history of complicated pregnancy and/or congenital malformations in the child during current or past pregnancy and(2) women with general health questionnaire-12(GHQ-12) score of higher than 3.



General health questionnaire-12

The general health questionnaire [30],[31] is often used as a screening tool in psychiatry to rule out comorbid psychiatric diagnosis. It contains 12-Likert type questions which assess the presence and severity of psychopathology. It has been used in Indian setting before with good validity and reliability.

Pregnancy Upscale-Downscale Scale

Pregnancy upscale-downscale scale(PUDS)[32] is a 41-item Likert type scale, which assesses the perceived pleasantness or unpleasantness of various experiences which are a part and parcel of pregnancy. The rater has to rate how uplifting or distressing each of those experiences is to them, on a spectrum of 0–3 with 0 being “not at all” and 3 being “a great deal.” We calculated(1) the frequency(number of hassles and uplifts reported),(2) the intensity(mean intensity score for hassles and uplifts), and(3) overall experience of the ongoing pregnancy(ratio of hassles:uplifts). Aratio≥1 was indicating more hassles than uplifts, a ratio of≤1 indicative of more uplifts than hassles. It has an advantage over other similar instruments [33] as it not only indicates whether a pregnant woman is perceiving more uplifts or more hassles, but it also enlists individual hassles and uplifts experienced by her.

Cognitive failure questionnaire

It is a 25-item Likert type scale [34] assessing self-reported problems in perception, memory and motor functions. The rater has to rate each item on a spectrum of 4-0 with 4 being “very often” and 0 being “never.” Higher the score on the cognitive failure questionnaire (CFQ), greater will be the perceived deficit or decline in performing a particular task. This assessment tool has been used in obstetric population in existing literature.[35],[36]

Statistical analysis

Descriptive statistics were used for sociodemographic factors. One-way ANOVA, independent samples t-test, and Mann–Whitney U-test were used for comparing quantitative variables where appropriate. Pearson's correlation was used to evaluate the relationship between variables. Statistical significance was assumed at P <0.05.

  Results Top

The sample of sixty showed a mean age of 26.36±3.40years(range 21–34years). Seventy percent of the samples were educated till graduation or above and 66% of the samples were primigravidae[Table1]. Duration from expected date of delivery(EDD) was 136.81±65.78days (median: 138days and range: 34–274days).
Table 1: Demographic factors in the study sample

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Pregnancy: Uplifting and distressing experiences

Mean score on PUDS was 23.60±20.62(median: 23.0, range: 0.63–70.0). Mean score was higher for uplifts(36.23±16.28) than hassles(12.93±8.49). Thirteen percent(8/60) participants showed a hassle-uplift ratio≥1 whereas the rest had a hassle-uplift ratio of≦1. There was no effect of education, occupation, and parity on frequency and severity of hassles and uplifts experienced by women during pregnancy[Table2].
Table 2: Pregnancy upscale-downscale scale subscale scores and outcome measures across demographic variables

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Distress and subjective cognitive decline during pregnancy

Mean CFQ score was 29.33±14.91. There was no significant effect of education(F=0.955, P=0.391), occupation (t=0.265, P=0.792), and parity(F=0.484, P=0.619) on CFQ scores. There was no significant correlation between CFQ scores and age, education in years, number of pregnancies, and duration from EDD.

Relationship between pregnancy experience, distress, and perceived cognitive decline

There was a significant correlation between PUDS hassle subscale score with CFQ score(r=0.417, P=0.001). Hassles severity score during pregnancy was identified as the only significant predictor of perceived cognitive decline during pregnancy [Table 3].
Table 3: Linear regression analysis between cognitive failures questionnaire scores and study variables

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  Discussion Top

Pregnancy specific anxiety

Stress during pregnancy can be multifactorial in origin. As shown by existing literature, pregnancy-specific anxiety is an independent source of anxiety apart from biological, psychosocial, and cultural sources. Alot of research has been done and has shown a strong connection between psychosocial stress in pregnancy and low birth weight,[37],[38] health of the infant,[39] prematurity, and intrauterine growth restriction.[38] Only a handful studies have evaluated the role of anxiety and stress related to pregnancy-speci c events and development in maternal psychological health.[40],[41],[42]Pregnancy-specific stress or anxiety arises when events related to pregnancy are associated with emotional, physical, or sociocultural distress.[29] Being pregnant is a matter of immense pleasure and pride for a woman. Yet, numerous events and developments occurring during a normal pregnancy can precipitate distress in pregnant women. Events such as physical symptoms and discomforts, changes in physical appearance, and adjustments necessary in different domains of day-to-day life can be quite distressing to women. Concerns about the gender, appearance, health, and development of the yet unborn child can cause considerable anxiety. Participants in our study reported physical sequelae of pregnancy as the most distressing experiences. We were surprised to observe, in a country like India, where preference for a male child has skewed the sex ratio in almost every state,[43]thoughts regarding gender of the child were not in the top ve distressing or uplifting experiences! This could have been the result of selecting participants from an urban, working class of women who were highly educated. Another reason for this could have been the awareness created by the government and doctors toward preventing female feticide!

We observed that perceived distress due to events in pregnancy is independent of age, parity, education, occupation, and gestational age, similar to existing literature.[44],[45],[46],[47],[48],[49],[50],[51],[52],[53],[54]It can be hypothesized that different events occurring at different stages during pregnancy can be equally distressing or uplifting to awoman.

Subjective cognitive decline in pregnancy

This study observed that women do perceive a decline in cognitive functions and age, education, occupation, and parity do not affect the degree of this decline.

Pregnancy anxiety and subjective cognitive decline

Participants in this study reported that tasks related to working memory, recent memory, and attention span were most impaired, whereas tasks related to long-term memory, spatial memory, and procedural memory were relatively spared[Table4]. These findings support the existing literature [2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16] which on the basis of objective assessment as well as subjective reports demonstrate a decline in verbal memory,[17] executive control,[17] declarative memory,[26] and relatively spared visual memory and procedural memory.[27] This study supports the existing literature in that domain.
Table 4: Perceived joy, distress and cognitive functions during pregnancy

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Pregnancy-specific anxiety and perceived cognitive functions

We also observed that severity of distress perceived by women during pregnancy was a significant predictor of perceived cognitive functions. Women with a higher level of distress reported more cognitive decline during pregnancy. Pregnancy anxiety has been associated with a higher mean cortisol secretion during gestational period.[42] This hypercortisolemic state can affect maternal [48] as well as fetal hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis regulation [41] and can have widespread clinical and developmental consequences. Brett and Baxendale [16] have hypothesized that hypercortisolemia in pregnancy may have causal implications for pregnancy-related memory decline by causing hippocampal cell loss and affecting neuronal hyperexcitability. Stress, depression, and anxiety are known to affect cognitive functions. We tried to avoid these confounding factors by screening the participants on GHQ-12 before recruiting in the study. There are few studies in literature, which demonstrate cognitive de cits in pregnancy to be independent of mood, stress and anxiety [17],[18],[19],[20] who on objective evaluation observed that cognitive performance during pregnancy is independent of mood, stress, and anxiety. Higher pregnancy anxiety has already been associated with multiple developmental domains such as poorer cognitive.

Strengths of this study are, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first study in an Indian sample evaluating perceived cognitive functions in pregnancy. This study highlights that pregnancy-specific anxiety or even hassles associated with normal pregnancy can affect the perceived cognition in pregnant women. This study also highlights the most uplifting and distressing experiences associated with pregnancy in women with an uncomplicated pregnancy with no psychiatric comorbidity. This study has a few limitations, first and foremost being the sample size. The study was designed to avoid the confounding factors such as comorbid anxiety and depression on perceived cognitive functions during pregnancy which excluded many potential participants from this study. We also set educational status as an inclusion criterion to include participants equipped with uniform intellectual and academic resources.

This study holds key importance for family physicians(FPs) and primary care physicians(PCP). Complains of memory and problems in day-to-day function can be distressing to a woman, especially during pregnancy. These symptoms can lead the family to doctor-shopping, unnecessary and unindicated investigations with a lot of financial and emotional burden. India has one medical doctor for every 1700 population, with the FP/PCP often providing health care in rural as well as urban settings. AFP/PCP is often considered a family member, and his opinion/guidance and inputs are often sought and decision-making in family matters. Thus, a FP/PCP informed about these symptoms, and their cause can evaluate the woman as well as her socio-occupational background, evaluate the domains which are precipitating any pregnancy-specific anxiety, and address those issues with the help of a family-based intervention(group counseling). They can educate the family members and the pregnant women about the transient nature of physical symptoms and clear their misunderstandings and address their anxieties related to the health of the fetus and labor-related complications if any.

  Conclusions Top

A number of events, which constitute a normal pregnancy, can be perceived as distressing by the pregnant woman and be a source for pregnancy-specific anxiety. This anxiety is not affected by demographic factors and parity. Pregnancy anxiety predicts the subjective perception of memory disturbances even in women with no comorbid anxiety, mood, or other major psychiatric disorders.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Table1], [Table2], [Table 3], [Table4]


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