Risk Perception in Pregnancy: Context, Consequences, and Clinical Implications

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Despite huge advances in obstetric management and technology in recent decades, there has not been an accompanying decrease in patients’ perception of risk during pregnancy. The aim of this paper is to examine the context of risk perception in pregnancy and what practitioners can do to manage it. The modern pregnancy may induce a heightened perception of risk due to increased prenatal testing and surveillance, medico-legal complexity, fertility treatment, and the increasing use of the internet and social media as a source of information. The consequences of an inflated perception of risk during pregnancy include stress, anxiety, and depression, and these issues may have long-lasting implications for patients, their babies, and their families. There are numerous resilience and vulnerability factors that can help care providers identify those who may be predisposed to increased risk perception in pregnancy, and there is a role for both obstetric care providers and psychologists engaged in obstetric settings to manage and reduce risk perception in patients where possible. Ultimately, the medical management of risk during pregnancy can be complex but a thorough understanding of the social and emotional context can assist providers to support their patients through both high- and low-risk pregnancy and birth.

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