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Pregnant women afraid to bring babies into ‘new world’

Pregnant women are facing more than just the physical health risks associated with Covid-19 - they're also facing an influx of new anxieties brought on by the pandemic.

A recent Washington State University study unveiled the stressors Covid-19 has placed on pregnant women. More than 160 women responded to the study’s survey last year between late April and late June to relay what concerned them most about the pandemic and its risks.

Physically, pregnant women face higher risks if they become infected with Covid-19, with a higher likeliness of being put on a ventilator and admission to the ICU, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over the past year, Covid-19 risks to pregnant women and new mothers have focused on the wellbeing of the fetus or baby, as well as vaccine safety, but there are also several mental health impacts that haven't gotten much attention until the WSU study.

About 52% of pregnant respondents and 49% of postpartum respondents were concerned about their baby contracting the virus. Additionally, 38% of pregnant respondents and 32% of postpartum respondents were worried about their partner or themselves contracting the virus. The survey also showed 46% of pregnant women inquired about Covid-19 protocols at the hospitals where they planned to deliver or had delivered their babies.

“Pregnant women are really stressed about contracting COVID-19,” Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, PhD, vice chancellor for research at WSU Health Sciences Spokane and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “They have a lot of questions for their healthcare providers. There’s a lot we don’t know yet, which is understandable, but it’s especially stressful for the moms.”

Aside from health concerns, pregnant women struggled with financial worries, and 19% of surveyed women reported a reduction in income, 9% were laid off or furloughed and 10% noted someone in their household lost their job. About 10% of respondents reported serious financial difficulties, and 19% had difficulty finding childcare.

Since February 2020, women have lost more than 5.3 million net jobs, constituting approximately 54% of overall job losses.

Patients also noted a lack of information around protecting their baby from Covid-19, missing a prenatal appointment because of fear of contracting the virus, lack of healthy food and baby supplies, significant others being unable to come to the delivery room, lack of social support because of the lockdown and fear of bringing the baby into a “new world.”

“We know that prenatal stress impacts fetal development, so these are really big concerns,” Barbosa-Leiker said.

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