Mental health symptom changes in pregnant individuals across the COVID-19 pandemic: a prospective longitudinal study.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND: Initial studies found that mental health symptoms increased in pregnant and postpartum individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Less research has focused on if these putative increases persist over time and what factors influence these changes. We examined the longitudinal change in mental health symptoms in pregnant and postpartum individuals and investigated moderation by maternal emotion dysregulation and the incidence of coronavirus. METHODS: Pregnant and postpartum individuals at the University of Utah were invited to join the COVID-19 and Perinatal Experiences (COPE) Study. Beginning on April 23, 2020 participants were sent a survey comprised of demographics, medical and social history, pregnancy information and self-assessments (Time 1). Participants were contacted 90 days later and invited to participate in a follow-up questionnaire (Time 2). Daily coronavirus case counts were accessed from the state of Utah and a 7-day moving average calculated. Within-subject change in mental health symptom scores, as measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory, was calculated. Linear mixed effects regression modeling adjusted for history of substance abuse and mental health disorders. RESULTS: 270 individuals responded between April 23rd, 2020 and July 15th, 2021. Mental health symptom scores improved by 1.36 points (0.7-2.0 p < 0.001). The decrease in mental health symptoms was not moderated by the prevalence of COVID-19 cases (p = 0.19) but was moderated by emotion dysregulation (p = 0.001) as defined by the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale short form. Participants with higher emotion dysregulation also had higher mental health symptom scores. CONCLUSION: Mental health symptoms improved over the course of the pandemic in the same pregnant or postpartum participant. Our findings do not negate the importance of mental health care during the pandemic. Rather, we believe this identifies some aspect of resiliency and adaptability. Examining emotion dysregulation, or asking about a history of mental health, may be helpful in identifying persons at higher risk of heightened responses to stressors.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gimbel, LA; Allshouse, AA; Neff, D; Silver, RM; Conradt, E; Crowell, SE

Published Date

  • December 3, 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 22 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 897 -

PubMed ID

  • 36463120

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9719623

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1471-2393

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1186/s12884-022-05144-6


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England