What is it about?

Anxiety during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of various negative health effects, both on the mother and on the newborn. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a great source of stress for most people, and it is possible that pregnant women are more likely to experience anxiety disorders because of concerns about fetal health. Against this backdrop, the authors of a new study sought to evaluate the psychological impact of the pandemic on pregnant women in Italy, focusing on symptoms of anxiety. They sent questionnaires to about 200 hundred pregnant women with items that account for their basal or ‘usual’ anxiety levels and their anxiety levels during March 2020, which were the days of the maximum spread of COVID-19 in Italy. They also analyzed the prevalence of various fears related to COVID-19 and how it could negatively affect their pregnancy.

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Why is it important?

The results of this prospective study show that most of the pregnant women surveyed had considerably higher levels of anxiety due to COVID-19, and that fears of preterm birth, fetal structural anomalies, and fetal growth restriction were present in over half of the subjects. Overall, the pandemic effectively doubled the number of pregnant women reaching abnormal levels of anxiety. Whereas most demographic variables such as age and employment were unrelated to the results, it appears that pregnant women with a higher education were more likely to have increased anxiety. Considering that there is very little evidence to suggest COVID-19 has negative effects on the fetus, these fears—which represent a great source of stress—may be unfounded. KEY TAKEAWAY This study, which is among the first to analyze the psychological effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women, shows that expecting mothers are particularly vulnerable to suffering from increased anxiety, and could benefit from appropriate and timely interventions.

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This page is a summary of: Effects of coronavirus 19 pandemic on maternal anxiety during pregnancy: a prospectic observational study, Journal of Perinatal Medicine, June 2020, De Gruyter, DOI: 10.1515/jpm-2020-0182.
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