Since the start of the Pandemic, researchers at the Centre for Population Health have adapted and delivered research in response to COVID-19 –harnessing the Centre’s research capabilities to help inform decision making. One of the Centre’s projects adapted in response to the Pandemic has been the ‘Born in Wales’ Study.
Study to support families to give children the best start in life
The study was set up in September 2020 to help inform health, education and wellbeing improvements for all children in Wales. Born in Wales looks to achieve this by developing evidence for families, health care professionals and policymakers on how to best support families to give children the best start in life.
Understanding the experiences of expectant parents during the Pandemic
Being pregnant during the covid-19 Pandemic has been stressful and a challenging experience with mums facing concerns for their health and the health of their unborn baby. However, little research has been conducted to find out the unique experiences of expectant mothers and their partners during this time.
The ‘Born in Wales’ team set about addressing this by adapting the study, using targeted questions to help understand experiences of pregnancy through the Pandemic.
Expectant mothers completed an online survey about their experience of pregnancy during the Pandemic. The research team anonymously linked the participant’s answers to health data to identify whether babies born in 2020 differed from babies born before the Pandemic.
The survey revealed common themes such as the perception of the Pandemic severity, the difference between regular appointments and delivery, and contact with midwives.
“I feel quite anxious, lonely and isolated with my current concerns around coronavirus and feeling me and my baby are vulnerable.”
“All of the restrictions have made things a lot harder, and the lack of support at appointments and scans has been extremely difficult”.
The findings show that the Pandemic had a significant negative impact on expectant mothers’ mental health, with the majority reporting anxiety, loneliness, and fear, which have a negative emotional effect on pregnant women. Health concerns, having to experience scans and delivery alone, and minimal contact from midwives led to difficult experiences of pregnancy.
However, the data indicated that babies born during the COVID-19 display no disadvantage or adverse outcomes compared to babies born before the Pandemic regarding birth weight and whether they were born at term. Early findings suggest that there may have been fewer preterm births in the second lockdown and the first lockdown slightly more overdue/post-term births.
Future work will include follow-up analysis in the first year of life to examine if stress in pregnancy and ongoing pandemic changes has any longer-term consequences for the infant and their family.
Professor Sinead Brophy, Director of the Centre for Population Health, said:
“Health, wellbeing and family life during pregnancy and in the first year of life, can impact on future health and wellbeing of our children. Supporting good parental health and positive development during the first year and, importantly, through the Pandemic is crucial.
Our research has revealed common concerns which have affected the health and wellbeing of expectant mums.
These results can be used to inform midwives and nurses on the pregnancy experiences during COVID and how to best support women and families after this experience.”