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IMPORTANCE: Antenatal stress is a significant risk factor for poor postpartum mental health. The association of pandemic-related stress with postpartum outcomes among mothers and infants is, however, less well understood. OBJECTIVE: To examine the association of antenatal COVID-19-related stress with postpartum maternal mental health and infant outcomes. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This cohort study was conducted among 318 participants in the COVID-19 Risks Across the Lifespan study, which took place in Australia, the UK, and the US. Eligible participants reported being pregnant at the first assessment wave between May 5 and September 30, 2020, and completed a follow-up assessment between October 28, 2021, and April 24, 2022. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: COVID-19-related stress was assessed with the Pandemic Anxiety Scale (score range, 0-4, with higher scores indicating greater COVID-19-related stress). The 8-item Patient Health Questionnaire (score range, 0-3, with higher scores indicating more frequent symptoms of depression) was used to measure maternal depression at each time point, and the 7-item General Anxiety Disorder scale (score range, 0-3, with higher scores indicating more frequent symptoms of anxiety) was used to measure generalized anxiety at each time point. At follow-up, postpartum distress was assessed with the 10-item Postpartum Distress Measure (score range, 0-3, with higher scores indicating greater postpartum distress), and infant outcomes (negative and positive affectivity and orienting behavior) were captured with the Infant Behavior Questionnaire (score range, 1-7, with higher scores indicating that the infant exhibited that affect/behavior more frequently). RESULTS: The study included 318 women (mean [SD] age, 32.0 [4.6] years) from Australia (88 [28%]), the US (94 [30%]), and the UK (136 [43%]). Antenatal COVID-19-related stress was significantly associated with maternal postpartum distress (β = 0.40 [95% CI, 0.28-0.53]), depression (β = 0.32 [95% CI, 0.23-0.41]), and generalized anxiety (β = 0.35 [95% CI, 0.26-0.44]), as well as infant negative affectivity (β = 0.45 [95% CI, 0.14-0.76]). The findings remained consistent across a range of sensitivity analyses. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: The findings of this cohort study suggest that targeting pandemic-related stressors in the antenatal period may improve maternal and infant outcomes. Pregnant individuals should be classified as a vulnerable group during pandemics and should be considered a public health priority, not only in terms of physical health but also mental health.

Original publication




Journal article


JAMA Netw Open

Publication Date





Female, Infant, Humans, Pregnancy, Adult, COVID-19, Mental Health, Depression, Cohort Studies, Stress, Psychological, Postpartum Period