Background: Corona Virus Disease 19 (COVID-19) is a new pandemic, declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization, which could have negative consequences for pregnant and postpartum women. The scarce evidence published to date suggests that perinatal mental health has deteriorated since the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the few studies published so far have some limitations, such as a cross-sectional design and the omission of important factors for the understanding of perinatal mental health, including governmental restriction measures and healthcare practices implemented at the maternity hospitals. Within the Riseup-PPD COST Action, a study is underway to assess the impact of COVID-19 in perinatal mental health. The primary objectives are to (1) evaluate changes in perinatal mental health outcomes; and (2) determine the risk and protective factors for perinatal mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, we will compare the results between the countries participating in the study.
Methods: This is an international prospective cohort study, with a baseline and three follow-up assessments over a six-month period. It is being carried out in 11 European countries (Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Israel, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom), Argentina, Brazil and Chile. The sample consists of adult pregnant and postpartum women (with infants up to 6 months of age). The assessment includes measures on COVID-19 epidemiology and public health measures (Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker dataset), Coronavirus Perinatal Experiences (COPE questionnaires), psychological distress (BSI-18), depression (EPDS), anxiety (GAD-7) and post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSD checklist for DSM-V).
Discussion: This study will provide important information for understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on perinatal mental health and well-being, including the identification of potential risk and protective factors by implementing predictive models using machine learning techniques. The findings will help policymakers develop suitable guidelines and prevention strategies for perinatal mental health and contribute to designing tailored mental health interventions.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04595123 .
Keywords: Anxiety; COVID-19; Coping mechanisms; Depression; Post-traumatic stress disorders; Postpartum; Pregnancy; Risk factors.