COVID-19 Pandemic-Related Stress Factors Can Influence Perinatal Outcomes in Pregnant Women

Joyce Chen ’23

Figure 1: Pregnant women who are experiencing stress from the COVID-19 pandemic are at risk for negative perinatal outcomes. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe physical and psychological burdens on individuals around the world. Aside from the disease itself, extended quarantine periods and the inability to socialize with others have had a tremendous impact on mental wellbeing. Among the many who were negatively affected by COVID-19, pregnant women tend to feel higher levels of anxiety and stress, thereby leading to decreased wellbeing in their infants. Stony Brook University researchers Dr. Heidi Preis and Dr. Marci Lobel investigated how stress levels of pregnant women affect their perinatal outcomes. 

A total of 1,367 women above the age of 18 with an average age of 31.4 years were recruited and studied for the entirety of the experiment, all of whom had given birth before July 2020. The team assessed the participants’ medical history and sociodemographic factors such as age, race, and financial status. The participants’ engagement in healthy behaviors was measured based on their personal rankings of certain actions, such as exercising or taking vitamins. Stress levels related to the pandemic or any personal issues during pregnancy, such as discrimination, interpersonal violence, or major life events, were assessed by self-ranking. It was discovered that 7.1% of participants had a preterm delivery and that African American women were the most likely out of all races to have a preterm-delivered infant. Furthermore, 8.6% of these women delivered a small gestational age (SGA) infant, meaning that their baby weighed less than the 10th percentile for gestational age based on the number of weeks of pregnancy. 91% of the participants who had a preterm delivery reported higher levels of prenatal maternal stress and a greater likelihood of experiencing a major life event while pregnant. Those who suffered from interpersonal violence were twice as likely to deliver an SGA infant. Additionally, women who were diagnosed with COVID-19 during pregnancy were five times more at risk for SGA. 

Dr. Preis and Dr. Lobel’s study of pregnant women and their underlying anxiety shows how certain women are at risk for unhealthy perinatal outcomes that may affect maternal and infant health. In the future, it may be ideal for pregnant women to receive additional care and support in order to feel less overwhelmed and burdened by stress. 

Works Cited: 

[1] H. Preis, et al., Adverse perinatal outcomes predicted by prenatal maternal stress among US women at the COVID-19 pandemic onset. Society of Behavioral Medicine 55, 179-191(2021). doi: 10.1093/abm/kaab005.

[2] Image retrieved from: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2014/08/20/23/16/pregnant-422982_1280.jpg

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