Pandemic has increased pregnancy stress for US women
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COVID-19 has created new problems for pregnant women in the United States, a group that already faced the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world even before the pandemic. One of their biggest concerns is their baby contracting the disease. Some women expressed fears that simply going to the hospital to deliver would cause them to get the virus and then be forced to isolate themselves from their newborn.

Psychological stress and coping experienced during pregnancy can have important effects on maternal and infant health, which can also vary by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Therefore, investigators assessed stressors, coping behaviors, and resources needed in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic in a sample of 162 perinatal women in the United States.

A mixed-methods study captured quantitative responses regarding stressors and coping, along with qualitative responses to open-ended questions regarding stress and resources needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

--During the COVID-pandemic, food scarcity and shelter-in-place restrictions made it difficult for pregnant women to find healthy foods.

--Participants also reported missing prenatal appointments, though many reported using telemedicine to obtain these services.

--Financial issues were prevalent in the sample and participants had difficulty obtaining childcare.

--After controlling for demographic variables, pregnant women were less likely to engage in healthy stress-coping behaviors than postpartum women.

--Lastly, they were able to detect signals of increased stressors induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and less social support, in perinatal women of a racial and ethnic minority, and lower-income status.

--Qualitative results support our survey findings as participants expressed concerns about their baby contracting COVID-19 while in the hospital, significant others missing the delivery or key obstetric appointments, and wanting support from friends, family, and birthing classes. Financial resources, COVID-19 information, and research as it relates to maternal-infant health outcomes, access to safe healthcare, and access to baby supplies emerged as the primary resources needed by participants.

Conclusively, to better support perinatal women’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers should engage in conversations regarding access to resources needed to care for newborns, refer patients to counseling services and virtual support groups, and consistently screen pregnant women for stressors.

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth