Nurse Researcher Studying Women’s Experiences Giving Birth During COVID-19 Pandemic

A newborn baby sleeps while wrapped in a blanket.
A UConn researcher is exploring the psychological impacts COVID-19 is having on mothers with newborn children.

Giving birth can be stressful at the best of times, but giving birth during a pandemic? That is a whole other level.

A researcher at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing is just beginning to dive into the emotional and psychological impacts COVID-19 is having on mothers with newborn children. Distinguished professor Cheryl Beck is collaborating on an internet study with Deepika Goyal, an OB/GYN nurse practitioner and a professor at San José State University.

“It’s looking at the impact of COVID-19 on women giving birth, and then also in the beginning postpartum period,” Beck says. “Because some of the hospitals will only allow the partner to come in, mothers can’t have this normal support system that they wanted to.”

The study is open to women over the age of 18 who gave birth Feb. 1, 2020, or later, according to its website. Beck and Goyal explain to the women that they are “conducting this study to hear about your experiences at the time of your baby’s birth and the first few weeks after the birth during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As a mixed methods study, the researchers are collecting both quantitative and qualitative data. They’ll be using instruments to measure participants’ post-traumatic stress levels and postpartum depression levels. The researchers will be using the Postpartum Depression Screening Scale that Beck has developed, but will also ask mothers to describe their experiences. As of early June, Beck and Goyal had 50 women who had completed both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the study.

“We’re going to be using content analysis to look for themes, repetitive patterns,” says Beck, who specializes in qualitative analysis.

For decades, Beck’s research has focused on the mental health issues mothers face before, during and after birth – especially traumatic births.

“I’ve done a number of studies on post-traumatic stress after giving birth,” Beck says. “These women giving birth during the pandemic may not develop full-blown PTSD, but I would think they would have some of the symptoms of someone going through a stressful period.”

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