A qualitative exploration of experiences accessing community and social services among pregnant low-income people of color during the COVID-19 pandemic

Womens Health (Lond). 2023 Jan-Dec;19:17455057231156792. doi: 10.1177/17455057231156792.


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with increased social and economic stressors among pregnant individuals. While community and social services have been available to mitigate stressors in pregnancy (e.g. food insecurity and financial hardship) and reduce the risk of adverse maternal outcomes, it is unclear how the pandemic impacted access to these resources, particularly in communities of color with lower incomes.

Objective: To examine the experiences accessing community and social service resources during the COVID-19 pandemic among pregnant people of color with low incomes.

Design: Participants for this COVID-related qualitative study were recruited from two sources-a prospective comparative effectiveness study of two models of enhanced prenatal care and the California Black Infant Health Program between August and November of 2020.

Methods: We conducted 62 interviews with Medicaid-eligible participants in California's Central Valley. During their interviews, study participants were asked to share their pregnancy-related experiences, including how they felt the pandemic had affected those experiences.

Results: We identified two broad themes: challenges with accessing community and social service resources during the pandemic and opportunities for improving access to these resources. Sub-themes related to challenges experienced included difficulty with remote access, convoluted enrollment processes for community and social services, and problems specific to accessing COVID-19 resources (e.g. testing). Sub-themes related to opportunities to improve access included leveraging instrumental support from perinatal staff and informational (e.g. practical) support from other community programs and pregnant peers. Participant recommendations included leveraging opportunities to improve client experiences through increased transparency and better patient-provider communication.

Conclusion: This study highlights some important trends that emerged with the rollout of remote service delivery for social services among a vulnerable population. Many participants were able to leverage support through other programs and perinatal staff. These individuals identified additional opportunities to improve client experiences that can inform the future implementation of support services for pregnant people.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; implementation; pregnancy; social stressors; support resources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pandemics
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Social Work
  • United States