Tommy's PregnancyHub

New research looks at effect of pandemic stress on pregnancies

New research has looked at how pandemic-related stress impacted pregnancies in 2020. More research is needed to understand the full effects of Covid-19.

The study, co-authored by Professor Alexander Heazell, Director of Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre, is the first study to look at pandemic-related stress in mums who didn’t have Covid-19.  

The international study focused on 155 mums who gave birth during the pandemic. It showed more abnormalities in the placenta than doctors would expect to see in a pre-2020 pregnancy.

The placenta is an organ that helps your baby grow and develop. Stress in pregnancy can sometimes cause inflammation and functional changes, which can increase the risk of complications, including fetal growth restriction

The study found that rates of placenta problems tripled among mums who had Covid-19, but doubled even among those who tested negative for the virus. This suggests that these changes could be caused by the stress of the pandemic, as well as the virus itself.

While this is concerning, Professor Heazell stressed the need for more research to understand the results of the study. He says:

“We need more long-term research to understand the full effects of Covid-19 and related stresses on pregnancy; both clearly affect the placenta, but we still can’t tell exactly what that means for the health of mothers and babies. In the meantime, there must be appropriate psychological care and support available throughout pregnancy, to help reduce the pandemic’s impact on maternal wellbeing.”

Advice from Tommy’s

We know that the pandemic has caused stress and anxiety for many parents-to-be. It’s completely understandable to struggle in times like these. Although you may not be able to prevent stress completely, you can focus on finding ways to manage it. This may help you feel more in control.

Tommy’s midwife Amina Hatia explains: 

“We’re all different, so the only advice that will apply to everyone is to focus on your physical and mental health and distract yourself with things you enjoy or find relaxing, instead of being drawn into ‘what ifs’. Try to avoid the constant news cycle, which can be overwhelming, and only get updates from reliable sources when you need information. Talk to someone you’re close to, or release emotions into a journal, but don’t keep things in. Take it a day at a time, be kind to yourself, and reach out for support if you need it.”

We have lots of information about taking care of your mental health and wellbeing in pregnancy, including wellbeing tips and how to find more help and support

Talk to your midwife or doctor if you have any concerns during pregnancy. You can also contact the Tommy's Midwives on our pregnancy line on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email [email protected]

See also our information about coronavirus and pregnancy.