NEW STUDY. Pregnant women, and in many cases also new parents, think more about the coronavirus and feel more affected and worried about it than other groups. This is shown by research results from the University of Gothenburg, which have now been presented in both a report by the SOM Institute and in a scholarly article. The results come from the Swedish Pregnancy Panel (PregDem) study and from the SOM survey.
Even though pregnant women today are not classified as a special risk group, they feel more vulnerable during the pandemic. It is normal for a pregnant woman to experience slight anxiety. Some uneasiness often means that the pregnant woman does not expose herself to unnecessary risks, which can help protect the unborn child. However, pronounced anxiety during pregnancy has previously been shown to be a contributing factor to premature birth and can also complicate bonding with the baby after birth.
“During the pandemic, meetings with parent groups are suspended and partners cannot participate in visits to the prenatal clinic or in the ultrasound examination,” says Karolina Lindén, an associate professor at the Institute of Health and Care Sciences and one of the researchers behind the study. “Social distancing can result in an absence of close support from friends and family. We do not yet know the consequences of this, but severe anxiety during pregnancy can potentially have consequences for the whole family’s health for some individuals.”
Pregnancy and politics
The results come from a study from the Gothenburg University Research Program on Pregnancy and Politics (PregDem). PregDem, which explores the political consequences of pregnancy, had already begun work in the autumn of 2019, before the pandemic, which means that the study can show how expectant parents are affected by COVID-19.
“PregDem did not begin as a COVID study, but rather dealt with how pregnancy and childbirth affect the individual’s view of society. But when the pandemic came to Sweden, it became one of the points that affected our study participants the most,” says Verena Sengpiel, associate professor at the University of Gothenburg and chief physician at the Women’s Clinic, Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
Political Scientist Elin Naurin heads PregDem. Helen Elden, an associate professor at Sahlgrenska Academy, also participates in the project.
Perceived increased vulnerability
The study shows that pregnant women to a greater extent than other groups feel they are personally affected by the virus and its consequences. Pregnant women and new mothers are also much more concerned about the virus than others. Pregnant women, their partners and those who live with children less than one year old think even more about the virus and its consequences than those who are age 70 and older.
Clear gender differences
In all groups, women are generally more concerned about the coronavirus than men. Pregnant women also feel much more affected by the pandemic than their partners do, despite that in many cases the partner may not attend check-ups and risks missing the childbirth. In the analysis, men between ages 20 and 40 are the least concerned group. They think about the virus and its consequences less and feel affected by it to the least extent.
- A new SOM report presents study results from both the SOM survey and from the PregDem (in Swedish): Hur upplever gravida och deras partners coronapandemin? (“How do pregnant women and their partners experience the corona pandemic?”)
- The results from PregDem have also recently been published in the European Journal of Public Health (in English): https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckaa223
TEXT: COMMUNICATION OFFICERS AT THE FACULTY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES & SAHLGRENSKA ACADEMY