Home-visiting matters: Investing in human wires during the COVID-19 pandemic reduced maternal stress
Prenatal stress is known to have detrimental effects on maternal psychological well-being as well as on child development. The effects of prenatal stress might be stronger in those women who also have high levels of anxiety in the peripartum and postpartum period. From this perspective, it is not surprising that the pandemic period has been a distress period for pregnant women and new mothers. We have documented this in a previous publication, reporting rates of severe depression and anxiety well above the usual trends observed in pre-pandemic community samples (Grumi et al., 2021). Notably, these levels were not affected by actual direct exposure to the SARS-COV-2 virus of the woman itself or its close social environment, further highlighting how the pandemic has been a psychological traumatic experience, independently from the severity of COVID-19 illness itself.
In a more recent publication from our group, we also have the opportunity to tell a different and complementary story, a story of protection. Indeed, from the same longitudinal and multi-centric study - the MOM-COPE project (Provenzi et al., 2020) - we obtained information about how many mothers received home-visiting sessions even during the lockdown period in Italy. As we matched and analyzed this information together with indexes of maternal anxiety and parenting stress when infants were 3-month-age, we discovered a protective effect of home-visiting sessions. Women who received home-visiting had lower scores of parenting stress and this effect was even more pronounced in mothers with elevated scores of anxiety.
These findings - published in Maternal and Child Health Journal (here) - suggest, once again, that when we invest in the power of human connections we can provide families with protective effects, even in an unprecedented time of healthcare emergency. Home-visiting programs should be improved and delivered to all families to provide smarter care to infants and parents.
Main article reference | Roberti E, Giacchero R, Grumi S, Biasucci G, Cuzzani L, Decembrino L, Magnani ML, Motta M, Nacinovich R, Pisoni C, Scelsa B, Provenzi L; MOM-COPE study group. Post-partum Women's Anxiety and Parenting Stress: Home-Visiting Protective Effect During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Matern Child Health J. 2022 Nov;26(11):2308-2317. doi: 10.1007/s10995-022-03540-0. Epub 2022 Sep 24. PMID: 36153448; PMCID: PMC9510513.
Other cited references
Grumi, S., Provenzi, L., Accorsi, P., Biasucci, G., Cavallini, A., Decembrino, L., Falcone, R., Fazzi, E. M., Gardella, B., Giacchero, R., Guerini, P., Grossi, E., Magnani, M. L., Mariani, E. M., Nacinovich, R., Pantaleo, D., Pisoni, C., Prefumo, F., Sabatini, C., Scelsa, B., … Borgatti, R. (2021). Depression and Anxiety in Mothers Who Were Pregnant During the COVID-19 Outbreak in Northern Italy: The Role of Pandemic-Related Emotional Stress and Perceived Social Support. Frontiers in psychiatry, 12, 716488. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.716488
Provenzi, L., Grumi, S., Giorda, R., Biasucci, G., Bonini, R., Cavallini, A., Decembrino, L., Drera, B., Falcone, R., Fazzi, E., Gardella, B., Giacchero, R., Nacinovich, R., Pisoni, C., Prefumo, F., Scelsa, B., Spartà, M. V., Veggiotti, P., Orcesi, S., Borgatti, R., … MOM-COPE Study Group (2020). Measuring the Outcomes of Maternal COVID-19-related Prenatal Exposure (MOM-COPE): study protocol for a multicentric longitudinal project. BMJ open, 10(12), e044585. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-044585