FRIDAY, March 19, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The pandemic is turning what should be a joyful time for pregnant women into a stress-filled experience.
Why? Fears that their infants might catch COVID-19 is one of the main reasons anxiety levels are soaring, a new survey finds.
Researchers from Washington State University analyzed responses from more than 160 pregnant and postpartum women (those who'd recently delivered) from April 28 to June 30, 2020.
The results showed that 52% of pregnant women and 49% of postpartum women worried about their babies contracting COVID-19, and 46% had sought additional information about COVID-19 protocols from the hospital where they planned to deliver, or had delivered, their babies.
The survey also revealed many other serious concerns. For example, one woman said her main concern was contracting COVID-19 and dying. Others worried about contracting the coronavirus in the hospital when they delivered or that COVID-19 policies would force them to isolate from their newborn or keep their partners out of the birthing room.
"Pregnant women are really stressed about contracting COVID-19," said study author Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, vice chancellor for research at WSU Health Sciences.
"They have a lot of questions for their health care providers. There's a lot of we don't know yet, which is understandable, but it's especially stressful for the moms," she added in a university news release.
Hospitals had varying policies at the beginning of stay-at-home measures, but the current recommendation is to keep babies and moms together, the researchers noted.
The survey also found that 27% of pregnant women said they couldn't obtain healthy food and 25% missed prenatal appointments.
Financial worries were also a significant issue. About 1 in 5 respondents said their income had been reduced, 9% said they'd been laid off, and 10% said someone in their household had lost their job.
Women of color had the highest levels of stress and greatest lack of social support, highlighting an increase in health disparities that were present before the pandemic, the researchers said.
The survey also found that pregnant women appeared to be more stressed than postpartum women, as they were less likely to use healthy stress-coping behaviors, such as exercising, taking breaks from the news and making time to relax, according to the study published recently in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.
"We know that prenatal stress impacts fetal development, so these are really big concerns," Barbosa-Leiker noted.
The findings highlight the need for more resources and support for pregnant women, especially during the pandemic.
"Health care providers should continue to talk with moms about all their stressors as their mental health and emotional well-being is key during this time," Barbosa-Leiker said. "Providers can keep resources on hand. For instance, if they learn there is job loss in the family, they could quickly refer them to wraparound services."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on pregnancy and COVID-19.
SOURCE: Washington State University, news release, March 17, 2021