Maternal-fetal bonding during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Abstract: Background: The pregnant population experienced unique COVID-19 physical and psychosocial stressors such as direct health concerns related to the virus and loss of access to resources since the COVID-19 emerged as a global pandemic in early 2020. Despite these COVID-19-related stress and concerns, the maternal experience of bonding with their unborn children has not been well studied. This work aimed to study the association between mental health history, current mental health symptoms, psychological factors, COVID-19-related worries, and self-reported maternal-fetal bonding of pregnant women. Methods: This online, survey-based cross-sectional study focused on women pregnant during the pandemic and assessed 686 women using data collected from May 19, 2020 to October 3, 2020. Enrolled respondents completed assessments in which they self-reported maternal-fetal bonding, mental health symptomatology, psychological factors, and COVID-19-related worries regarding health, pregnancy, and resources. Results: Depressive symptoms in pregnant women were associated with lower quality maternal-fetal bonding, while a higher level of anxiety was positively associated with bonding; however, past history of depression or generalized anxiety diagnosis did not appear to be as relevant as active symptomatology. Maternal resilience, but not distress tolerance, appeared to be a protective factor resulting in improved bonding. Higher levels of worry regarding impact of COVID-19 on health were significantly associated with improved bonding, while worries regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the pregnancy or resources were not significantly associated with bonding. The study also found associations between different sociodemographic variables and bonding, including a strong positive association between first time motherhood and bonding and a negative association between higher education and income and bonding. Conclusions: This study was the first to report potential protective and risk factors to the maternal-fetal bonding process in women pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unique COVID-19 concerns exist; however, anxiety and COVID-19 concerns do not appear to undermine maternal-fetal bonding while active depressive symptomatology may negatively influence bonding; interventions increasing maternal resilience may be particularly valuable.




Koire, A., Mittal, L., Erdei, C., & Liu, C. H. (2021). Maternal-fetal bonding during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 21(1).

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