In India, antenatal anxiety prevalence estimates range from 6 to 48%. Social support is strongly associated with mental wellbeing, yet most studies have examined the impact of support from partners and family members rather than peers, community members, or health care providers. This study explores the supportive role of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) contacts for antenatal anxiety.
Data were analyzed from the Saving Children, Improving Lives project, a quasi-experimental study conducted among rural, pregnant women in India. Regression models were used to estimate adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) and 95% confidence intervals for the relationship frequency of ASHA contacts and antenatal anxiety. Antenatal anxiety was measured using a subscale of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.
The sample consisted of 480 pregnant women. Reported antenatal anxiety prevalence was 27% (95% CI 23%, 31%). Participants who were more frequently visited by ASHAs at home (aPR: 0.90; 95% CI 0.76, 0.98) and more frequently accompanied by ASHAs to their antenatal care visits (aPR: 0.86, 95% CI 0.78, 0.95) were less likely to report antenatal anxiety. ASHA home visits were protective for the most vulnerable women (primigravida and those experiencing domestic violence) and ASHA accompaniment to antenatal care visits was equally protective for all women.
ASHAs are valued for their contribution towards maternal health education and linking women of reproductive age to healthcare services. Our findings additionally suggest the important role ASHAs play in providing social support to pregnant women, particularly those who are most vulnerable to experiencing antenatal anxiety.