Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people worldwide have had to adjust to new social and emotional stressors. When considering that pregnant women have historically been considered an at-risk population for mental health disorders with perinatal stress possibly leading to poor postnatal outcomes for both mother and child, the pandemic posed unique obstacles for these individuals. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care sought to explore the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to pregnant and parenting adolescent and young adults’ (AYA) mental health, health care experiences and coping mechanisms for stressors.
Through this study, it was found that adolescent parenthood is associated with a range of adverse outcomes for young parents, including mental health disorders, substance use disorder, socioeconomic stress and poor education outcomes. Further investigations found that both pregnant and parenting individuals reported increased experiences of isolation and loneliness. These obstacles can potentially exacerbate preexisting mental health challenges, adding additional stressors.
“The COVID-19 pandemic introduced novel challenges to the lives of parenting and pregnant AYAs, including social distancing, isolation measures and interruptions in advancing education and career goals. These contributed to profound feelings of loneliness, anxieties surrounding the health and safety of their children, and other undesirable outcomes.,” said study co-author Bridgette Merriman, BA.
Health care providers are uniquely positioned to be aware of and screen for pregnant and parenting AYA’s challenges in their patient populations. By doing so, there is the chance to offer expanded support resources to this group, allowing them to be better prepared to handle the various complex mental and physical health issues in future crises.
“Our research highlights this young population’s adaptability and desire to protect their children. It reminds us as health care providers to screen for and provide access to comprehensive social and mental health services in this population,” added study co-author Grace Jarmoc BS, MS.
The article “Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Resiliency of Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents and Young Adults: A Qualitative Study” was published in the September/October edition of the Journal of Pediatric Health Care and can be accessed here.
Oct. 18, 2023