Joyce Chen ’23
Within the past year, the onset and duration of the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world. Aside from the detrimental effects on physical health, the virus has taken a significant impact on mental wellbeing. Many pregnant women have reported feeling heightened levels of stress at this time because they do not feel prepared to give birth and are afraid of their newborn infants contracting the virus. Because prenatal stress can be harmful to the mothers and their infants’ health, Dr. Heidi Preis of Stony Brook University and her team of researchers looked into specific causative factors for better methods of intervention.
Around the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Preis and her team recruited 4,451 pregnant women to participate in a nationwide questionnaire. Referred to as the Pandemic-Related Pregnancy Stress Scale (PREPS), the questionnaire measured two categories of stress: Preparedness Stress and Perinatal Infection Stress. Preparedness Stress is when the women feel unprepared to give birth during the pandemic and Perinatal Infection Stress is felt when the women are afraid of either their baby or themselves contracting the virus. The results showcased that approximately 30% of all subjects experienced either Preparedness Stress or Perinatal Stress. Additionally, about 17.9% experienced high levels of both. Factors associated with Preparedness Stress and Perinatal Infection Stress were race, socioeconomic status, lack of access to healthcare, chronic illness, and experiences with abuse. Women who had more access to outdoor space, were of older age, and were adopting healthy prenatal behaviors did not report feeling either categories of stress.
Dr. Preis and her team’s study helps to better understand the emotions and experiences of pregnant women of different backgrounds during the pandemic. The results highlight how different variables factor into the levels of stress the women experience during pregnancy. Future studies are needed to advocate for better interventions and access to resources. Alleviating some stress may yield better health outcomes for both the mother and the infant.
 H. Preis, et al., Vulnerability and resilience to pandemic-related stress among U.S. women pregnant at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social science & medicine 266, 113348 (2020). doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113348