Mental Health & Neurology

    Women's Health

    Pandemics & Infectious Diseases

AXA Awards


The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Mental Health of Mothers and Newborns

The situation individuals experience during a pandemic, which may include lock down, social distancing, and fears surrounding economic insecurity, can have negative effects on mental health. This burden and the related stress can be particularly harmful for pregnant women, young mothers, and their offspring. Understanding this impact is crucial for the adequate management of lock down measures on these populations during the current crisis and future epidemics. This is the aim of AXA Research Fund Award recipient Dr. Maria Foraster, from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain, whose research assesses the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the mental health and wellbeing of mothers and newborns.
  Dr. Foraster is following a cohort of pregnant women (part of the Barcelona Life Study Cohort, BiSC) recruited before the pandemic in Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain), a city that has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with three main goals. First, to describe the temporal evolution of the psychological stress in both pregnant women and those having recently delivered their babies during different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Second, to identify the main factors of psychological stress, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Third, to evaluate the associations of the maternal psychological problems induced by the pandemics with the neurodevelopment of her child. To answer these questions, women will be followed-up during and after lock down to characterize their situation and mental health. Post Lock down, Dr. Foraster and her team will assess the accumulated stress hormones in hair, maternal mental health, and neurodevelopment of the children over 18 months.

 Early results are expected in less than 12 months and will help bridge a critical gap in research. Indeed, “in general, studies that have assessed the psychological impact of confinement or quarantine in the context of previous epidemics (SARS, MERS and Ebola) have focused on specific professional groups and general health, but none have investigated periods of high vulnerability such as pregnancy or early childhood”, reports the researcher. “Similarly, studies on maternal stress and infant neurodevelopment are few, small, and limited to a short follow-up period.” The findings of this project will provide novel evidence of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of mothers and newborns, two vulnerable subpopulations that disease management policies have previously overlooked.



ISGlobal Barcelona Institute for Global Health





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