Is Psychological Testing Accurate When You’re Pregnant?

Reader’s Question

Would it be likely to get an inaccurate assessment on the MMPI-2, MCMI-III, and TSI if the person being administered the inventories was in a third trimester pregnancy and answering questions based on physical and emotional tendencies that are a direct result of the pregnancy and not necessarily occurring when not pregnant? (I.e. food cravings, physical aches and pains, pregnancy-induced anxiety, etc.)

Psychologist’s Reply

The answer is probably no, but it needs some explanation. The psychological instruments you mention — like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory — contain items/questions that are related to mood, history, attitude, opinion, and specific psychiatric symptoms. Of the traits and issues measured by the instruments, some are directly related to the emotional state at the time of the examination such as depression, anxiety, physical complaints, etc. Other traits and issues are based in attitude, opinion, and patient history — issues not likely to change with mood or time. For example, depression may come and go in an individual — raising and lowering their results on the tests — but their history of being shy or outgoing will not likely change. In this manner, most psychology instruments look at a combination of “acute” or recent mood/status and issues that are long-standing. So…

  • During the third trimester of pregnancy we would expect an elevation on scales that measure both emotional and physical factors. In this way, the test provides an accurate measure of your current emotional and physical state — a situation created by your pregnancy. It would be “inaccurate” and inappropriate to suggest that your present mood is permanent or that the symptoms created by pregnancy are part of a personality issue.
  • The interpretation of the test should consider the pregnancy and its impact on issues related to mood and physical complaints. For example, an individual who has recently been in a severe automobile accident may offer 60 medical complaints, but the diagnosis is “automobile accident” — not “Hypochrondriac”.
  • Psychological instruments are able to detect some long-standing issues and concerns that would not be influenced positively or negatively by pregnancy. In providing an interpretation of the test results, the professional should indicate which issues are commonly found in pregnancy and those considered to be long-standing and unrelated to pregnancy.

While psychological testing during pregnancy may create an accurate measure of your current emotional state — it’s your emotional state when pregnant. A more accurate assessment of your psychological status can be obtained by conducting the testing process many months after the delivery.

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