Anxiety levels among pregnant women have risen significantly since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the country's largest maternity hospitals has found.
Pregnant women are most concerned about their older relatives (83%), followed by other children (67%) and their unborn babies (63%).
The study from the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital in Dublin found that while the women are least concerned about themselves (51%), concern about their health has increased by 34%.
“It is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused anxiety among the pregnant population to rise,” says the study's main author, Dr Gillian Corbett.
Our patients are least concerned about their own health, but, despite this, over half of women have significant health anxiety and government instruction on social distancing has resulted in major changes in behaviour among pregnant women.
Dr Corbett, a junior registrar at the maternity hospital, says it is crucial that the women receive accurate and up-to-date information.
“Pregnant women being under additional pressure may have indirect adverse effects on their physical and mental health,” she warns.
The research assesses maternal anxiety caused by Covid-19, changes in behaviour and information sources used by pregnant patients.
Pregnant women made significant lifestyle changes at the onset of the pandemic and before the full stay-at-home guidance was issued.
Seven out of 10 are avoiding all socialising while almost half (47%) have changed the primary method of transportation to avoid contracting the virus.
It emerged that 35% are self-isolating, 32% are not going out to work and 20% are working from home.
When asked about bulk-buying, 66% have stocked up on food, 42% have stocked up on hand sanitiser; 25% of toiletries; 10% on fuel and 9% on personal protective equipment.
After the schools closed 38% of women needed additional support with childcare and almost a quarter could not go out to work because they had no support.
One in 10 received childcare support from the children's grandparents while 6% were sharing childcare with friends or colleagues.
While television is the most used information source (80%), just 16% of the women use social media.
The HSE's website is used by 63% of women while nearly half (49%) got their information from mobile phone applications.
A quarter of women rely on newspapers for information while 17% use the World Health Organisation's website.
“Few patients used social media as an information source, which is reassuring given the concerns over distribution of misinformation through social media,” said Dr Corbett.
The 71 women who took part in the survey are in the second and third trimester of pregnancy.
The survey was completed during the first two weeks of March before the stay-at-home guidelines were introduced.
Master of the maternity hospital, Professor Michael O'Connell, says the research will inform how patients are treated at the Coombe.
Meanwhile, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) is conducting an online survey on women's experience of caring during the public health crisis.
NWCI's health coordinator, Dr Cliona Loughnane, says women still carry a disproportionate responsibility for all forms of care in Ireland.
“We know that unequal burden of care and household responsibilities can have an impact on your mental health, and that women are especially vulnerable during this pandemic, with the closure of schools and added responsibility of supporting and caring for older relatives factored in," says Dr Loughnane.
The survey that will run for one week can be accessed online.