Covid-19 causing anxiety among pregnant women

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Covid-19 pandemic causing increased levels of anxiety among pregnant women.

Friday 15 May 2020: The Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital has announced the results of a study on health anxiety among pregnant women in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The research assesses maternal anxiety due to Covid-19, adaptations in behaviour, and information sources used by pregnant patients.

The survey was undertaken by 71 women in the second and third trimester of pregnancy, completed during the first two weeks of the pandemic’s delay phase in late March – before the full ‘stay-at-home’ guidelines came into effect.

Prof Michael O’Connell, Master of the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital said:

“In a fast-moving global health crisis such as Covid-19, accurate information from reliable sources is essential, with misinformation adding to fear and anxiety. Health anxiety is also an influential factor in the success of public health strategies to manage pandemics. The research presented today will inform how maternity patients are treated at the Coombe and beyond, and we will continue to use the most up-to-date information to help us care for our patients’ physical and mental health.”

Concerns

Since the onset of the pandemic, pregnant women were most concerned about their older relatives (83%), followed by their other children (67%) and their unborn babies (63%). While they were least worried about themselves (51%), their concern for their own health has risen by 34% since before the pandemic (from 17%).

Gillian Corbett, Junior Registrar at the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital and lead author of the study, said:

“It is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused anxiety among the pregnant population to rise. Our patients are least concerned about their own health, but despite this, over half of women have significant health anxiety and government instruction on social distancing has resulted in major changes in behaviour among pregnant patients.

“Pregnant women being under additional pressure may have indirect adverse effects on their physical and mental health. It is critical to recognise this and support patients through the provision of accurate and up-to-date information, with simple strategies such as in this study leading to improved patient satisfaction and empowerment.”

Behavioural changes

Pregnant women made significant lifestyle changes at the onset of the pandemic and before full ‘stay-at-home’ guidance was issued. 70% of those surveyed reported avoiding all socialising, while almost half (47%) had altered their primary method of transportation; in order to avoid contracting the virus, 35% were self-isolating, with 32% staying home from work; and 20% began working from home.

When asked about bulk buying, 66% reported stocking up on food; 42% stocked up on hand sanitizer; 25% on toiletries; 10% on fuel and 9% on personal protective equipment (PPE).

Childcare support

Following the closure of schools in Ireland just before the survey was conducted, 38% of women reported needing additional support with childcare, while almost a quarter (24%) said they had to stay home from work as they had no support. 11% were receiving childcare support from grandparents while 6% were taking part in shared childcare with friends or colleagues.

Information sources

The information source most-utilised by those surveyed was television news (80%). 63% got their information from the HSE’s website; nearly half (49%) from mobile phone news applications; a quarter (25%) from newspapers; 17% from the World Health Organisation’s website; and 16% from social media.

“Few patients used social media as an information source, which is reassuring given the concerns over distribution of misinformation through social media,” noted Corbett.

Issued by Murray on behalf of The Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital

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