The COVID-19 pandemic may be of particular concern for pregnant and breastfeeding women. We aimed to explore their beliefs about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccine willingness and to assess the impact of the pandemic on perinatal experiences and practices. A multinational, cross-sectional, web-based study was performed in six European countries between April and July 2020. The anonymous survey was promoted via social media. In total, 16,063 women participated (including 6661 pregnant and 9402 breastfeeding women). Most responses were collected from Belgium (44%), Norway (18%) and the Netherlands (16%), followed by Switzerland (11%), Ireland (10%) and the UK (3%). Despite differences between countries, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy was identified among 40-50% of the respondents at the end of the first wave of the pandemic and was higher among pregnant women. Education level and employment status were associated with vaccine hesitancy. The first wave had an adverse impact on pregnancy experiences and disrupted access to health services and breastfeeding support for many women. In the future, access to health care and support should be maintained at all times. Evidence-based and tailored information on COVID-19 vaccines should also be provided to pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid unfounded concerns about the vaccines and to support shared decision making in this population.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; breastfeeding; community health services; counseling; maternity care; pregnancy; primary health care; public health; vaccine hesitancy.