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Review of Mobile Apps for Women With Anxiety in Pregnancy: Maternity Care Professionals’ Guide to Locating and Assessing Anxiety Apps

Evans, Kerry; Donelan, Jasper; Rennick-Egglestone, Stefan; Cox, Serena; Kuipers, Yvonne


Kerry Evans

Jasper Donelan

Stefan Rennick-Egglestone

Serena Cox


Background: Mental health and pregnancy apps are widely available and have the potential to improve health outcomes and enhance women’s experience of pregnancy. Women frequently access digital information throughout their pregnancy. However, health care providers and women have little information to guide them toward potentially helpful or effective apps.

Objective: This review aimed to evaluate a methodology for systematically searching and reviewing commercially available apps that support pregnant women with symptoms of anxiety in order to assist maternity care professionals in identifying resources that they could recommend for these women.

Methods: A stepwise systematic approach was used to identify, select, describe, and assess the most popular and highly user-rated
apps available in the United Kingdom from January to March 2021. This included developing a script-based search strategy and search process, writing evaluation criteria, and conducting a narrative description and evaluation of the selected apps.

Results: Useful search terms were identified, which included nonclinical, aspirational, and problem-based phrases. There were 39 apps selected for inclusion in the review. No apps specifically targeted women with anxiety in pregnancy. Of the 39 apps included in the review, 33 (85%) focused solely on mind-body techniques to promote relaxation, stress reduction, and psychological well-being. Only 8 of the 39 (21%) apps included in the review reported that health care professionals had contributed to app development and only 1/39 (3%) provided empirical evidence on the effectiveness and acceptability of the app. The top 12/39 (31%) apps were evaluated by 2 independent reviewers using the developed criteria and scores. There was a small negative correlation between the reviewers’scores and app user rating scores, with higher user rating scores associated with lower reviewer scores.

Conclusions: App developers, publishers, and maternity care professionals should seek advice from women with lived experience of anxiety symptoms in pregnancy to locate, promote, and optimize the visibility of apps for pregnant women. There is a lack of resources that provide coping strategies based on current evidence for the treatment of anxiety in pregnancy. Maternity care providers are limited in their ability to locate and recommend acceptable and trustworthy apps because of the lack of information on the evidence base, development, and testing of apps. Maternity care professionals and women need access to libraries of trusted apps that have been evaluated against relevant and established criteria.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 16, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 23, 2022
Publication Date 2022-03
Deposit Date Mar 26, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 28, 2022
Journal Journal of Medical Internet Research
Print ISSN 1439-4456
Publisher Journal of Medical Internet Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 3
Article Number e31831
Keywords anxiety; pregnancy; antenatal; mobile applications; digital interventions; mHealth; mobile app; psychological well-being; maternity; evaluation; quality assessment
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