Are exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapies safe during pregnancy?

A reoccurring question is if exposure is safe during pregnancy. In a paper published in ”Archives of women’s mental health” the authors try to answer the question. They summarize it as follows:

Anxiety disorders during pregnancy are highly prevalent and associated with serious and enduring consequences for both mother and child. Exposure-based cognitive behavioral (CBT) and behavioral therapies (BT) represent the most empirically supported psychosocial treatments for anxiety disorders in general adult samples. Pregnant women, however, generally have been excluded from this body of research. Evidence that pregnant women inhabit a unique biological context combined with untested assumptions that exposure would unduly stress or harm the fetus have likely prohibited inquiry. This paper seeks to remedy this gap by integrating findings from obstetric, psychiatric, and psychological research to inform central questions regarding exposure-based treatment of anxiety disorders during pregnancy. Based on available evidence, we consider the potential risks and benefits of CBT/BT for anxiety disorders during pregnancy relative to other currently available treatment options. From a multidisciplinary research perspective, we argue that exposure-based therapies are likely to be safe during pregnancy, particularly relative to the alternatives. However, we also highlight critical questions for future research to directly test the biopsychological impact of exposure-based therapies among pregnant women.

You can read the full paper here:,%20Dimidjian%20&%20Chessick,%20Is%20exposure%20safe%20during%20pregnancy,%202012.pdf

Arch, J., Dimidjian, S., & Chessick, C. (2012). Are exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapies safe during pregnancy? Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 15, 445-457.