Psychological impact of infectious disease outbreaks on pregnant women: rapid evidence review

S. K. Brooks*, Dale Weston, N. Greenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives: Infectious disease outbreaks can be distressing for everyone, especially those deemed to be particularly vulnerable such as pregnant women, who have been named a high-risk group in the current COVID-19 pandemic. This paper aimed to summarise existing literature on the psychological impact of infectious disease outbreaks on women who were pregnant at the time of the outbreak. Study design: The design of this study is a rapid review. Methods: Five databases were searched for relevant literature, and main findings were extracted. Results: Thirteen articles were included in the review. The following themes were identified: negative emotional states; living with uncertainty; concerns about infection; concerns about and uptake of prophylaxis or treatment; disrupted routines; non-pharmaceutical protective behaviours; social support; financial and occupational concerns; disrupted expectations of birth, prenatal care and postnatal care and sources of information. Conclusions: Pregnant women have unique needs during infectious disease outbreaks and could benefit from up-to-date, consistent information and guidance; appropriate support and advice from healthcare professionals, particularly with regards to the risks and benefits of prophylaxis and treatment; virtual support groups and designating locations or staff specifically for pregnant women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-36
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Health
Volume189
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response at King's College London in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), in collaboration with the University of East Anglia. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care or Public Health England. DW is also a member of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol. The funding source had no role in study design; the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; the writing of the article or the decision to submit it for publication.

Funding Information:
Despite the considerable body of literature on clinical outcomes of being diagnosed with an infectious disease during pregnancy, little attention has been paid to the psychological impact of such outbreaks on pregnant women (including non-infected individuals). They may have fears for their own health, given the physiological changes that occur during pregnancy which may make them more severely affected by infectious diseases,10 as well as the health of their unborn babies. They may also experience distress due to disrupted prenatal care and delivery: women who gave birth during the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks were discharged as soon as possible after delivery, and prenatal services considered non-essential were suspended.6,11,12 Research suggests lack of control over decisions relating to childbirth can be traumatic,13 raising concerns about how women giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic will cope with, for example, restrictions on hospital visitation procedures during and after labour. In many countries (such as the UK), women are being requested to attend all prenatal appointments alone14 and in some countries (including Poland and China) are required to give birth alone,15,16 despite familial support during the birthing process being considered essential for women's well-being.17The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response at King's College London in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), in collaboration with the University of East Anglia. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care or Public Health England. DW is also a member of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol. The funding source had no role in study design; the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; the writing of the article or the decision to submit it for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Royal Society for Public Health

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Disease outbreaks
  • Infectious diseases
  • Mental health
  • Pregnancy

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