The COVID-19 crisis has caused a major rise in anxiety for women giving birth

A pregnant woman is seen in this undated stock image. (Photo by Kei Scampa from Pexels)

The pandemic has caused increased stress and anxiety among women who have given birth in recent months, according to a report produced by three community organizations that provide support to women during their pregnancy.

 An online survey found 38.6 per cent of women said they had dealt with a lot of stress or anxiety about their childbirth during a pandemic.

An almost identical percentage of women, 37.1 per cent of the respondents, indicated that they had felt "moderate" stress.

By comparison, only 10 per cent of the respondents said that the health context had no impact on their anxiety as they approached childbirth.

The survey polled 267 people between May 5 and Aug. 10. The questionnaire was set up jointly by the Regroupement Naissances Respectées (RNR), Groupe MAMAN and the Quebec Association of Doulas (QAD).

"We set up the questionnaire because the feedback from the field was really problematic," explained RNR communications director Sophie Mederi.

Bonjour belle communauté! En partenariat avec le Groupe MAMAN et l'Association Québécoise des Accompagnantes à la...

Posted by Regroupement Naissance-Renaissance on  Saturday, 10 October 2020

In addition to the stress caused by the health crisis, many women were deprived of support resources during their childbirth.

Before the pandemic, nearly one-in-three women who responded to the survey wanted a doula - a caregiver trained to support the woman throughout her pregnancy and childbirth - to be present during childbirth.

However, the survey found that 23 per cent of them were denied the presence of their doula during the pandemic.

It was a difficult observation for Mederi, "since it has been proven that the presence of an attendant reduces the rate of interventions such as caesarean section, inductions and epidurals."

According to organizations, 67 per cent of women who were refused the presence of an accompanying person said that this directive had an impact on the course of their childbirth.

Moreover, while eight per cent of women had planned to give birth at home with a midwife, only three per cent of them obtained this privilege this spring.

In the end, 83 per cent of the women who answered the questionnaire gave birth in the hospital, although only 75 per cent of them planned to give birth there at the beginning of their pregnancy.

In light of the findings, the organizations behind the survey have asked the Ministry of Health and Social Services to launch a real study on the impact of the pandemic during the childbirth period.

"We would like a real investigation to be launched, for prenatal classes to be put back in place and for more resources to be allocated to provide psychological support to women who have to give birth in this context," said Mederi. "It's a bit absurd that in a time of a pandemic, when women are going through all this stress and all this anxiety, we cut information and we cut services, when it should be the opposite."

The questionnaire remains available at accouchenpandemie.ca, and organizations say another report will be produced when more data is collected.

The preliminary report can be viewed here.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 10, 2020. 

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