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Pregnancy in a pandemic: generalised anxiety disorder and health anxiety prevalence

02 August 2021
13 min read
Volume 29 · Issue 8

Abstract

Anxieties can be typical to pregnancy. At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, pregnant women were classified as at risk and advised to shield. This may have caused increased generalised anxiety disorder and health anxiety across the demographic. This study aimed to explore current, actual and perceived levels of generalised anxiety disorder and health anxiety in pregnant women during the COVID-19 outbreak. A sample of 674 participants completed an online questionnaire consisting of demographic and pregnancy related questions, the GAD-7 and HAI. The COVID-19 outbreak has increased self-reported levels of general anxiety and health anxiety in pregnant women. Of the sample, 633 (94%) agreed that the outbreak had increased their general anxiety; 607 (90.1%) also reported increased health anxiety. Due to the negative effects that anxieties may cause during pregnancy, it is recommended that reintroducing normality to pre- and postnatal healthcare, where safe to do so, will be beneficial.

COVID-19 is the abbreviation for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Primarily documented as ‘pneumonia of an unknown cause’ (World Health Organization, 2020), the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic in early March 2020. This announcement caused governing bodies to classify those with underlying health issues as being ‘at risk,’ essentially meaning more susceptible to adverse outcomes following infection. Initially in the UK, only ‘women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired’ (UK Government, 2020a) were considered at risk. Following this, all pregnant women were categorised as being at risk (Alszewski, 2020). This did not mean that there was evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is any more contractible during pregnancy. The decision was made as a precautionary measure as pregnancy can alter the physiological response to severe viral infections (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2020).

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