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Fear of giving birth alone: Experiences of psychological distress, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and coping- strategies of childbearing women during COVID-19.

Midwifery 2024 Februrary 13
BACKGROUND: Psychological distress during pregnancy is a well-documented risk factor for adverse maternal outcomes. Distress related to the COVID-19 pandemic may further increase the vulnerability of pregnant women to negative mental health outcomes.

AIM: To explore the mental health experiences of pregnant women, focusing on mental health outcomes, challenges related to the pandemic, coping strategies, and factors buffering mental health factors during the restricted COVID-19 lockdown period.

METHODS: A mixed-methods survey study was conducted, examining symptoms of anxiety, depression, and burnout among 21 pregnant women. Qualitative data were gathered through open-ended questions about participants' experiences of challenges, coping strategies and buffering factors amid the pandemic. Symptoms of anxiety, depression and burnout were calculated, and qualitative data was thematically analyzed.

RESULTS: Approximately one-third (24 %) of the respondents reported clinically significant levels of depression, 19 % reported clinically significant levels of anxiety, and 43 % reported experiencing burnout. All participants reported distress and emotional burden, including fear, worry, stress and anxiety related to the pandemic. Specific concerns such as fear of giving birth alone, fear of the consequences due to lockdown restrictions, insufficient information, disruption of prenatal healthcare services, and fear of miscarriage were prevalent among the participants. Social support, financial stability, stable relationships, adherence to daily routines, reduced stress and social demands, a calmer daily life, physical activity, and less work-related stress including working from home, emerges as buffering factors that aided women in coping with pandemic-related distress.

CONCLUSION: Healthcare providers should prioritize stability, predictability, and minimizing disruptions to prenatal care. Broad-based screening is crucial to identify women at risk of depression, anxiety, and burnout. Recommendations for clinical pathways aimed at pregnant women are discussed.

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