COVID-19: Western team probes how viral stress affects moms-to-be, newborns

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Pregnancy can be an anxious time under the best of circumstances, but a Western University research team is studying the added effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on newborns and their moms.


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The pregnancy resilience study, led by Emma Duerden, an assistant professor in Western’s education faculty, looks to recruit 200,000 mothers worldwide to take part in the online survey, which will focus on a mother’s mood, ability to think and reason and how stress might influence a mom’s and a baby’s health.

Duerden and her collaborators will also look at how mothers deal with stress before, during and after their pregnancies, COVID-19’s short- and long-term effects on moms and newborns, how physical activity and diet during pregnancy might impact stress and whether healthier habits can improve resilience to stress during the pandemic.
Duerden said literature already shows pregnant women experience greater stress during natural disasters, such as floods and ice storms, and that increased tension affects their moods, thoughts and babies.

She said stress caused by health risks, quarantine, isolation and fear is being felt by women everywhere during the virus crisis.

“It is crucial that we identify what they experience, not only for their own personal well-being, but for the health of their babies,” Duerden said.

Emily Nichols, a post-doctoral fellow in the education faculty, will assess reasoning, memory, decision-making and sleep in the study.

“Constant worrying, forgetfulness and an inability to focus are common cognitive symptoms of stress and we want to understand the extremes of these indicators so that we can help pregnant women cope and manage on a global scale,” Nichols said.

The study has recruited more than 500 participants so far from Canada, the U.S., India, Uganda, Croatia and the Netherlands.

To join the study, visit


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