New research has uncovered the unique challenges faced by new mothers, pregnant women and those planning pregnancy in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Monash University research found those women were showing signs of distress during the early stages of COVID-19, from January to May.
Women in the unique online support forum commonly used the terms ‘worry’, ‘risk’, ‘concern’ and ‘anxiety’ and were seeking peer support via online parenting forums as an information source in the absence of official information relevant to their unique circumstance.
The study, led by Dr Cheryce Harrison and Dr Rhonda Garad and performed by PhD student Bonnie Chivers identified five themes:
• Heightened distress related to a high-risk external environment
• Despair and anticipatory grief due to deprivation of social and family support
• Altered family and support relationships
• Guilt tampered happiness
• Family future postponed
Women expressed concerns around the lack of information on COVID-19 and the risks during pregnancy.
“Health professionals need to understand that women have unique information needs particularly around risk and safety related to pregnancy and newborn health,” Dr Harrison said.
“Support needs of this population remain high and therefore in the presence of significant impacts to support networks we need to look at ways to meet those needs in a COVID-safe way.
“Our results demonstrate pregnant women and new mothers are uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of nuanced and timely information appears to have exacerbated the risk of psychological and psychosocial distress in this vulnerable group who demonstrate heightened distress, reduced social and emotional support, anticipatory grief, increasing inter-family conflicts and direct impacts on family planning behaviours.”