skip to main content

Title: Mental Health and Prenatal Bonding in Pregnant Women During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence for Heightened Risk Compared With a Prepandemic Sample

We compared 572 pregnant women (319 first-time mothers) surveyed in spring 2020, during the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns in the United States, with 99 pregnant women (all first-time mothers) surveyed before the pandemic (2014–2020). Compared with the prepandemic sample, women assessed during the pandemic showed elevated depression, anxiety, and stress and weaker prenatal bonding to their infants. These findings remained significant when restricting the pandemic sample to first-time mothers only and held after controlling for race/ethnicity, education, and pregnancy stage. Average levels of depression and anxiety within the pandemic group exceeded clinically significant thresholds, and women who estimated that the pandemic had more negatively affected their social relationships reported higher distress. However, pandemic-related changes to social contact outside the household were inconsistently associated with mental health and with some positive outcomes (fewer depressive symptoms, stronger prenatal bonding). Given that prenatal stress may compromise maternal and child well-being, the pandemic may have long-term implications for population health.

Authors:
 ;  
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10371116
Journal Name:
Clinical Psychological Science
Volume:
10
Issue:
5
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 846-855
ISSN:
2167-7026
Publisher:
SAGE Publications
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Ryckman, Kelli K (Ed.)
    Background Technology enables the continuous monitoring of personal health parameter data during pregnancy regardless of the disruption of normal daily life patterns. Our research group has established a project investigating the usefulness of an Internet of Things–based system and smartwatch technology for monitoring women during pregnancy to explore variations in stress, physical activity and sleep. The aim of this study was to examine daily patterns of well-being in pregnant women before and during the national stay-at-home restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Finland. Methods A longitudinal cohort study design was used to monitor pregnant women in their everyday settings. Two cohorts of pregnant women were recruited. In the first wave in January-December 2019, pregnant women with histories of preterm births (gestational weeks 22–36) or late miscarriages (gestational weeks 12–21); and in the second wave between October 2019 and March 2020, pregnant women with histories of full-term births (gestational weeks 37–42) and no pregnancy losses were recruited. The final sample size for this study was 38 pregnant women. The participants continuously used the Samsung Gear Sport smartwatch and their heart rate variability, and physical activity and sleep data were collected. Subjective stress, activity and sleep reports were collected using amore »smartphone application developed for this study. Data between February 12 to April 8, 2020 were included to cover four-week periods before and during the national stay-at-home restrictions. Hierarchical linear mixed models were exploited to analyze the trends in the outcome variables. Results The pandemic-related restrictions were associated with changes in heart rate variability: the standard deviation of all normal inter-beat intervals (p = 0.034), low-frequency power (p = 0.040) and the low-frequency/high-frequency ratio (p = 0.013) increased compared with the weeks before the restrictions. Women’s subjectively evaluated stress levels also increased significantly. Physical activity decreased when the restrictions were set and as pregnancy proceeded. The total sleep time also decreased as pregnancy proceeded, but pandemic-related restrictions were not associated with sleep. Daily rhythms changed in that the participants overall started to sleep later and woke up later. Conclusions The findings showed that Finnish pregnant women coped well with the pandemic-related restrictions and lockdown environment in terms of stress, physical activity and sleep.« less
  2. Lin, Chung-Ying (Ed.)
    Background University students are increasingly recognized as a vulnerable population, suffering from higher levels of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and disordered eating compared to the general population. Therefore, when the nature of their educational experience radically changes—such as sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic—the burden on the mental health of this vulnerable population is amplified. The objectives of this study are to 1) identify the array of psychological impacts COVID-19 has on students, 2) develop profiles to characterize students' anticipated levels of psychological impact during the pandemic, and 3) evaluate potential sociodemographic, lifestyle-related, and awareness of people infected with COVID-19 risk factors that could make students more likely to experience these impacts. Methods Cross-sectional data were collected through web-based questionnaires from seven U.S. universities. Representative and convenience sampling was used to invite students to complete the questionnaires in mid-March to early-May 2020, when most coronavirus-related sheltering in place orders were in effect. We received 2,534 completed responses, of which 61% were from women, 79% from non-Hispanic Whites, and 20% from graduate students. Results Exploratory factor analysis on close-ended responses resulted in two latent constructs, which we used to identify profiles of students with latent profile analysis, including high (45%more »of sample), moderate (40%), and low (14%) levels of psychological impact. Bivariate associations showed students who were women, were non-Hispanic Asian, in fair/poor health, of below-average relative family income, or who knew someone infected with COVID-19 experienced higher levels of psychological impact. Students who were non-Hispanic White, above-average social class, spent at least two hours outside, or less than eight hours on electronic screens were likely to experience lower levels of psychological impact. Multivariate modeling (mixed-effects logistic regression) showed that being a woman, having fair/poor general health status, being 18 to 24 years old, spending 8 or more hours on screens daily, and knowing someone infected predicted higher levels of psychological impact when risk factors were considered simultaneously. Conclusion Inadequate efforts to recognize and address college students’ mental health challenges, especially during a pandemic, could have long-term consequences on their health and education.« less
  3. Background The COVID-19 pandemic has caused several disruptions in personal and collective lives worldwide. The uncertainties surrounding the pandemic have also led to multifaceted mental health concerns, which can be exacerbated with precautionary measures such as social distancing and self-quarantining, as well as societal impacts such as economic downturn and job loss. Despite noting this as a “mental health tsunami”, the psychological effects of the COVID-19 crisis remain unexplored at scale. Consequently, public health stakeholders are currently limited in identifying ways to provide timely and tailored support during these circumstances. Objective Our study aims to provide insights regarding people’s psychosocial concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic by leveraging social media data. We aim to study the temporal and linguistic changes in symptomatic mental health and support expressions in the pandemic context. Methods We obtained about 60 million Twitter streaming posts originating from the United States from March 24 to May 24, 2020, and compared these with about 40 million posts from a comparable period in 2019 to attribute the effect of COVID-19 on people’s social media self-disclosure. Using these data sets, we studied people’s self-disclosure on social media in terms of symptomatic mental health concerns and expressions of support. We employedmore »transfer learning classifiers that identified the social media language indicative of mental health outcomes (anxiety, depression, stress, and suicidal ideation) and support (emotional and informational support). We then examined the changes in psychosocial expressions over time and language, comparing the 2020 and 2019 data sets. Results We found that all of the examined psychosocial expressions have significantly increased during the COVID-19 crisis—mental health symptomatic expressions have increased by about 14%, and support expressions have increased by about 5%, both thematically related to COVID-19. We also observed a steady decline and eventual plateauing in these expressions during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have been due to habituation or due to supportive policy measures enacted during this period. Our language analyses highlighted that people express concerns that are specific to and contextually related to the COVID-19 crisis. Conclusions We studied the psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 crisis by using social media data from 2020, finding that people’s mental health symptomatic and support expressions significantly increased during the COVID-19 period as compared to similar data from 2019. However, this effect gradually lessened over time, suggesting that people adapted to the circumstances and their “new normal.” Our linguistic analyses revealed that people expressed mental health concerns regarding personal and professional challenges, health care and precautionary measures, and pandemic-related awareness. This study shows the potential to provide insights to mental health care and stakeholders and policy makers in planning and implementing measures to mitigate mental health risks amid the health crisis.« less
  4. Abstract Background

    The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges that disproportionately impacted women. Household roles typically performed by women (such as resource acquisition and caretaking) became more difficult due to financial strain, fear of infection, and limited childcare options among other concerns. This research draws from an on-going study of hot flashes and brown adipose tissue to examine the health-related effects of the COVID-19 pandemic among 162 women aged 45–55 living in western Massachusetts.

    Methods

    We compared women who participated in the study pre- and early pandemic with women who participated mid-pandemic and later-pandemic (when vaccines became widely available). We collected self-reported symptom frequencies (e.g., aches/stiffness in joints, irritability), and assessments of stress, depression, and physical activity through questionnaires as well as measures of adiposity (BMI and percent body fat). Additionally, we asked open-ended questions about how the pandemic influenced women’s health and experience of menopause. Comparisons across pre-/early, mid-, and later pandemic categories were carried out using ANOVA and Chi-square analyses as appropriate. The Levene test for homogeneity of variances was examined prior to each ANOVA. Open-ended questions were analyzed for yes/no responses and general themes.

    Results

    Contrary to our hypothesis that women would suffer negative health-related consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic, we foundmore »no significant differences in women’s health-related measures or physical activity across the pandemic. However, our analysis of open-ended responses revealed a bi-modal distribution of answers that sheds light on our unexpected findings. While some women reported higher levels of stress and anxiety and lower levels of physical activity, other women reported benefitting from the remote life that the pandemic imposed and described having more time to spend on physical activity or in quality time with their families.

    Conclusions

    In this cross-sectional comparison of women during the pre-/early, mid-, and later-pandemic, we found no significant differences across means in multiple health-related variables. However, open-ended questions revealed that while some women suffered health-related effects during the pandemic, others experienced conditions that improved their health and well-being. The differential results of this study highlight a need for more nuanced and intersectional research on risk, vulnerabilities, and coping among mid-life women.

    « less
  5. Abstract
    The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered family life in the United States. Over the long duration of the pandemic, parents had to adapt to shifting work conditions, virtual schooling, the closure of daycare facilities, and the stress of not only managing households without domestic and care supports but also worrying that family members may contract the novel coronavirus. Reports early in the pandemic suggest that these burdens have fallen disproportionately on mothers, creating concerns about the long-term implications of the pandemic for gender inequality and mothers’ well-being. Nevertheless, less is known about how parents’ engagement in domestic labor and paid work has changed throughout the pandemic, what factors may be driving these changes, and what the long-term consequences of the pandemic may be for the gendered division of labor and gender inequality more generally. <br /><br />The Study on U.S. Parents’ Divisions of Labor During COVID-19 (SPDLC) collects longitudinal survey data from partnered U.S. parents that can be used to assess changes in parents’ divisions of domestic labor, divisions of paid labor, and well-being throughout and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of SPDLC is to understand both the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic for the genderedMore>>