Their analysis found that COVID-19-related stress had the greatest impact on pregnant women who tended to worry, felt lonely, or had low uncertainty tolerance. A follow-up study published today in the JAMA Network Open looked at COVID-19-related stress in the postpartum period, 1.5 years after the initial study. The team found that feeling stressed during pregnancy due to the pandemic not only had a lasting impact on the participants’ own mental health, but was also associated with an increase in negative moods in their infants.
“The Centers for Disease Control identifies pregnant women as a vulnerable group in terms of physical health during pandemics and disease outbreaks,” said Dr. Swiss. “Based on these findings and those of others, we should also identify pregnant women as a vulnerable group in terms of mental health.”
Factors of Mental Health Vulnerability Importantly, the research team compared the pregnant women who participated in the study to controls who were matched for gender, age and country. “So you have someone who is as similar as you can get but is not pregnant at the time. And we looked at the impact of pandemic-related stress on their mental health,” says Dr. Swiss. Pandemic stress was measured using the Pandemic Anxiety Scale, which measures an individual’s concern about the pandemic, including concerns about contracting the virus, having enough food, and work-related effects. Not surprisingly, COVID-19-related stress was associated with more mental health problems in both pregnant and non-pregnant women.
“But not all women were affected in the same way. There were vulnerability factors such as lack of social support, increased loneliness, worry and intolerance to uncertainty that, in the context of pandemic-related stress, had a greater impact on mental health in pregnant women compared to their non-pregnant peers,” says Dr. Schweizer. Impact on behavior of the infant at the most recent time point, an average of 18 months after the initial assessment, the team performed the same set of actions on the cohort that relate to the postpartum period, such as thoughts of harm happening to the infant or harm an infant, and we also measured the infant’s mood and behavior.”
The follow-up study found that COVID-19-related stress during pregnancy, recorded in the first article, was significantly associated with poor postpartum maternal mental health outcomes. “What will always best predict your mental health is your mental health at an earlier point in time,” says Dr. Swiss. “So I was surprised that pandemic-related stress during pregnancy had a negative impact on maternal depression, anxiety and stress so far into the future, even when we controlled for their prior mental well-being.” But it wasn’t just the mothers who were affected. For those stressed by the pandemic, their infants were more likely to experience what researchers call “negative affectivity.” Negative affect means the child is more likely to cry, less likely to calm down, and less likely to venture into an unfamiliar situation.
“Negative affect is a measure of a child’s mood. But it has been linked to a range of behavioral problems, most notably cognition. It has also been associated with developmental outcomes across the lifespan.” While there is already solid literature showing that postpartum maternal mental health is significantly related to infant behavior, this is one of the first studies to show the The relationship between stress during pregnancy and the consequences of the mental health of mother and child during the pandemic.
Putting mental health first Dr. Schweizer himself has experienced being pregnant during the pandemic. “I was very fortunate that I knew I was in a position to continue working, so I didn’t have that economic pressure, but I was a high-risk pregnancy. And then my child was born prematurely,” said Dr Schweizer.
“It’s a stressful experience anyway, even under normal circumstances, but it was compounded a lot by being separated from my other children, I wasn’t able to see my daughter with my husband until much later. And so for me, it’s been a very direct and personal experience of how this pandemic has affected the peripartum period.” She argues that there is an urgent need for more mental health support for pregnant women as part of standard pregnancy care.” Pregnancy is a time of vulnerability to mental health problems. Intense and rapidly fluctuating moods and emotions are a normal part of pregnancy, and postpartum many people experience intrusive unwanted thoughts. But we are not told enough about them. Pregnant women need to be given information about this what to expect, what’s common, and when to seek help.” (ANI)
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)