Social support is a well-established buffer of stress during pregnancy that has been associated with better maternal and infant health outcomes in the postpartum period. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has had profound effects on pregnant women’s access to social connection, such as community and extended family support. We plan to test the effects of pandemic-related changes in prenatal stress and social support on postpartum maternal and infant health outcomes. We launched the Coronavirus, Health, Isolation and Resilience in Pregnancy (CHIRP) survey of currently pregnant women and their partners in early April 2020 and have received 710 responses to date. We seek funding to follow up with these participants three months after the birth of their children. We will collect self-report data and birth charts to measure gestational outcomes. Over the past five years, our lab has collected data from 200 expectant parents followed into the postpartum period (NSF-funded USC HATCH Study). Thus, we have a pre-pandemic comparison sample with the same measures and timing. We already see striking differences between expectant parents during the Covid-19 crisis and the pre-pandemic HATCH sample: significantly higher ratings of perceived stress, symptoms of anxiety and depression, pregnancy-specific worries among our currently pregnant sample, and lower ratings of social support. Understanding the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on prenatal well-being and subsequent maternal and infant health outcomes can contribute important knowledge to our understanding of stress and resilience during pregnancy.
Associate Professor, Psychology Department, University of Southern California