What is it about?

Maternity care was significantly disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Changes to care included moving from face-to-face to telehealth antenatal appointments, the cancellation of antenatal classes and in some settings the closure of hospital labour wards. These changes often happened quickly, with little notice, and during a time when understanding of the impacts of COVID-19 on pregnancy and birth outcomes was limited. This study interviewed 21 women coupled with social media analyses during 2021, to explore the information needs of pregnant people in Australia during this time. We found that most women had difficulty finding the information they wanted and needed. This included both the impacts of COVID-19 on their pregnancy and baby, as well as information about how the pandemic, and the varying level of restrictions would impact on their care and birth. Social distancing meant that many women were unfamiliar with the hospital they would birth at and practical information was needed, such as where to park, how to get to the labour ward and what the labour ward looked like. Information on restrictions to support persons and visitors during and after birth were also highly sought. Limited access to this information could cause distress and negatively impact on women’s experiences of birth. Women wanted accurate, clear, and timely information to be communicated by reputable health organisations regularly during the pandemic. Interactive communication methods were favoured to allow the opportunity for women and their partners to ask questions and get information in real time.

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Why is it important?

Insufficient information about COVID-19 for pregnant people increased feelings of uncertainty and distress and could negatively impact on experiences of pregnancy and birth. Understanding current information gaps and the ways women want to receive information from health organisations can inform future communication strategies during the pandemic, as well as in other public health emergencies, where there may be associated health risks and changes to care can happen rapidly.

Perspectives

Pregnancies and birth do not stop during public health emergencies. This paper describes experiences of pregnancy and birth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing timely information and support during pregnancy and after birth during times of instability is integral. I hope this article can highlight Australian women’s experiences of seeking information during the pandemic and can inform public health communication strategies going forward as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and in other emergency settings.

Cassandra Caddy
Burnet Institute

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: “Tell us what’s going on”: Exploring the information needs of pregnant and post-partum women in Australia during the pandemic with ‘Tweets’, ‘Threads’, and women’s views, PLoS ONE, January 2023, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0279990.
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