Association between pregnancy intention and psychological distress among women exposed to different levels of restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia

Danielle Schoenaker, Christie Jane Bennett, Jessica Anne Grieger, Cheryce L. Harrison, Briony Hill, Joanne C. Enticott, Lisa Moran, Helena J Teede, Sharleen L. O'Reilly, Siew S. Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Background
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the mental health of people globally. Significant concerns about health and access to services among women of reproductive age considering pregnancy may cause psychological distress, and in turn increase health risks during and after pregnancy for mothers and offspring.

Objectives
To examine the association between pregnancy intention and psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, and explore if this association differed based on local viral transmission rates and corresponding levels of pandemic restrictions.

Methods
A nationwide online survey was completed by 849 non-pregnant women aged 18–50 years between 15 October and 7 November 2020. Women were asked about their intention to become pregnant, and psychological distress was assessed using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). Multivariable regression analysis examined associations between pregnancy intention and psychological distress. An interaction term was added to the model to examine differences in associations by level of viral transmission rates and lockdown restrictions which was determined based on postcode.

Results
Pregnancy intention was not associated with experiencing (very) high psychological distress in the overall study population (odds ratio (OR) 1.42, 95% CI 0.94, 2.11). The interaction term (p = 0.09) suggested potential differences by level of restrictions and viral transmission rates. In stratified analysis among women living in a location with strict lockdown restrictions and high viral transmission rates leading up to and during the study, those planning to become pregnant were more likely to experience (very) high psychological distress (OR 3.39, 2.04, 5.65) compared with women not planning to become pregnant. Pregnancy intention was not associated with psychological distress among women exposed to lower levels of pandemic restrictions and viral transmission rates (OR 1.17, 0.74, 1.85).

Conclusions
Our findings highlight the need to identify and support women planning pregnancy during a public health crisis to mitigate potential short- and long-term intergenerational negative health outcomes associated with psychological distress.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0273339
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume17
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2022

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