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Pregnant women and new moms sought for study on coping with changes due to COVID-19 spread

Four pregnant women standing together

How pregnant women and new moms cope with the coronavirus threat may help others during future crises.

The results of chronic stress during pregnancy are well-known among researchers, but what about the resilience of pregnant women and new moms in a crisis situation?

VCU researchers are seeking pregnant women and new moms for a new survey to learn how they’re handling major societal changes taking place as the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads across the United States.

Patricia Kinser, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing in VCU’s School of Nursing and the principal investigator of the COVID-19 and Perinatal Experiences (COPE) Study, said the study is an opportunity for researchers to learn about the experiences of pregnant women and new moms as they cope with the pandemic.

The survey’s results may help health care providers and other organizations develop resources for pregnant women and new moms in the short-term and give researchers insights into coping mechanisms and resources that would be helpful for future crises.

“There have been studies over the years that look at major traumatic experiences, such as research that comes out of major earthquakes or the hurricane in New Orleans,” said Kinser, co-director of Perinatal Mental Health Research in VCU’s Institute for Women’s Health. “So we’re seeing that early stress exposure might have some kind of lasting effects on maternal-child health. Through this study, we have an opportunity to learn about the experiences of pregnant and postpartum women, with the hope that results from our study can help further develop social and medical practices.”

Study criteria

If you are pregnant or have given birth in the last six months, you can participate in the survey. You may also opt in to a registry so researchers can follow up with you to learn more about your experiences beyond your current pregnancy, as society continues to change.

“In the long range, being able to evaluate outcomes from maternal stress in the perinatal period is going to be hugely important,” Kinser said. “The creation of this registry will help us shape longer-term research and even policies about how to deal with traumatic situations that are occurring during the prenatal and postpartum period.”

What to expect

The survey will ask you about how your plans — where you’ll give birth, how you’ll get prenatal care or child care, if you plan to breast-feed, etc. — have changed since the onset of COVID-19. It also asks about potential changes in your or your family members’ employment, finances and other factors that might have changed during COVID-19.

Upon completion of the survey, which is expected to take less than 25 minutes, you will receive additional information on resources available to you about managing your stress, finances and health during pregnancy.

Kinser and her team are working with patients at VCU Health and throughout the Richmond area to learn about their unique perspectives, but the study is open to anyone who is eligible, regardless of location.

Your experience may help others

Learning what makes pregnant and new moms resilient during this time can make a difference for others who might face a similar situation in the future, Kinser said.

“The reality is: There are always going to be future major traumatic experiences that happen,” Kinser said. “With women sharing their feelings and sharing their knowledge about what they’ve experienced, the hope is that we could transform that into something positive.”

To participate in the survey, please visit the COVID-19 and Perinatal Experiences Study.