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Baby Bust, Increased Stillbirths, and New E-Health Technologies

Scientists Report on the Pandemic Effect on Birth Rates and Pregnancy Care

By IGI Global on Sep 30, 2020

Editor Note: Understanding the importance of this timely topic and to ensure that research is made available to the wider academic community, IGI Global has made a sample of related articles and chapters complimentary to access. View the end of this article to freely access this critical research.

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After the lockdowns from the current pandemic, many predicted another historic “baby boom,” due the increased time at home and lack of access to contraceptives and limited health services. However, according to a recent Psychology Today article, the pandemic could actually lead to a fertility decrease, due to parents’ concern about having a child during the pandemic and the turbulence of the economy. Scientists and medical professionals are still collecting and analyzing data on the impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy with the first CDC report noting that women who are pregnant might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and it can be passed from mother to child, though this is highly unlikely.

Additionally, during this time, much like the entire medical industry, pre-pregnancy check-ups, classes, and preparation have been drastically transformed to include e-health applications, stricter sanitation guidelines, and more expecting mothers working from home. In line with this theme, Profs. Claudia Carissoli and Daniela Villani, from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy, et. al. discuss the latest technologies that are being utilized to create a new model of pregnancy care in their article “An Emerging Model of Pregnancy Care: The Introduction of New Technologies in Maternal Wellbeing” featured in Innovations in Global Maternal Health: Improving Prenatal and Postnatal Care Practices. View the article below:

Innovations in Global Maternal Health: Improving Prenatal and Postnatal Care Practices
Copyright 2020 | Pages: 437 | ISBN: 9781799823513 | EISBN:9781799823520

This publication explores new techniques, tools, and solutions that can be used in a global capacity to support women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period, regardless of their wealth or location...Learn More.

Pregnancy is a complex phase in a woman’s life, a period in which she changes her status from daughter to mother in just a few months. Becoming a mother requires a profound reconstruction of self (Barclay et al., 1997). This process of change is not bounded by a particular time frame, and it can even happen before the end of the neo-maternal month (Rubin, 1984).

In addition to biological changes, pregnancy leads to a search for a new identity that has to be positioned at the individual, couple and social levels (Stern et al., 1998; Bibring, 1959; Ammaniti et al., 1996; Monti et al. 2006).

In this sense pregnancy is a psychologically complex period in a woman's life, and every pregnancy could be seen as a phase of potential vulnerability. Indeed, this metamorphosis is characterized by physiological and psychological changes that can enhance anxiety or other negative emotional states and favor risky behaviors, such as the lack of attention to personal hygiene and prenatal screening, poor diet, alcohol consumption, smoking and drug use (Lindgren, 2001).

A wide consensus exists about the role of maternal psychological state in influencing the development of the child and the course of the pregnancy: negative emotions, such as anxiety and stress, are often associated with a redoubt variability in the fetal cardiac frequency, greater motor activity (which can cause spontaneous abortion), various pregnancy complications, pre-term birth and low birth weight (Hoffman & Hatch, 2000; Dunkel-Schetter, 1998; Dayan et al., 2002). Davies and colleagues showed that the level of maternal cortisol, measured between 30-32 weeks of gestation, is a predictor of a difficult temperament in children at two months of age (Davis et al., 2007); it is also inversely related to scores of cognitive and motor development in children at both three and eight months (Buitelaar et al., 2003). Anxiety detected at 32 weeks gestation was predictive of severe behavioral problems in children at 4 years of age (O'Connor et al., 2002).

This situation appears even more critical in cases of anxiety or depression disorders during pregnancy that are related to postpartum depression (Grant et al., 2008; Austin et al., 2007) and to negative effects on infant mental development (Tronick, 1999). Postnatal depression has been clearly associated with negative health consequences for both women and their babies (O’Hara and Swain, 1996).

Specifically, impaired maternal-infant interactions have been linked to vulnerability in infants and children (Murray et al., 1996), to attachment insecurity and delay in cognitive and emotional development (Hipwell et al., 2000; Murray et al., 1992; Cogill et al., 1986; Cummings & Davies, 1994), and to social and interaction difficulties (Murray et al., 1999).

As well-being of the mother is critical for optimal pregnancy outcomes, it is important to regulate maternal stress and provide expecting mothers with coping strategies to increase their quality of life and to maximize infant health and development.

This chapter pursues a threefold objective. First, it aims to investigate how it is possible to enhance women’s well-being during pregnancy by taking into consideration the three levels of well-being identified by positive psychology. Second, it aims to analyze how actual mothers-to-be use new technologies to meet several needs. Finally, it aims to describe the Italian mobile app “BenEssere Mamma,” which was developed by the chapter’s authors to support mothers’ well-being during pregnancy.

How To Enhance Women’s Well-Being During Pregnancy

Pregnancy, evoking a range of emotions from great joy and anticipation to crippling anxiety, is likely to increase several needs, including the needs for information, to share experiences with others or to be instantly connected, and to consult professionals (Tripp et al., 2014). There are several ways to meet these needs, including self-soothing techniques, psycho-education and relaxation, that are particularly important in this transitional and meaningful time (Beddoe & Lee, 2008).

According to the positive psychology perspective – which emerged as the scientific study of positive personal experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions (Seligman, 2003; Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) - it is critical to focus on human strengths, healthy processes, and fulfillment in order to improve quality of life, as well as to increase wellness and resilience in individuals, organizations, and societies. This is also true for pregnant women.

Keyes and Lopez (Keyes & Lopez, 2002) suggested that positive functioning could be achieved by working on three levels of well-being: (a) high emotional well-being, (b) high psychological well-being, and (c) high social well-being. This means that positive psychology identifies three characteristics of our personal experience—affective quality, engagement/actualization, and connectedness—that serve to promote personal well-being.

By following this categorization it is possible to identify three critical perspectives to take into consideration in order to improve quality of life and well-being during pregnancy.

Fostering Maternal Positive Emotional States (Hedonic Perspective)

Theoretical perspectives suggest that the experience of positive emotions may be important in helping individuals recover quickly from stress. According to the Broaden-and-Build Theory of positive emotions (Fredrickson, 2001), the form and function of positive and negative emotions are distinct and complementary. Negative emotions (e.g., fear, anger, and sadness) narrow momentary thoughts and actions to produce autonomic nervous system activation that prepares the body for specific actions that served the ancestral function of promoting survival. By contrast, positive emotions (e.g., joy, interest, and contentment) broaden an individual's momentary thought–action repertoire, which in turn can build that individual's enduring personal resources, resources that also served the ancestral function of promoting survival. One implication of the Broaden–and–Build model is that positive emotions have an undoing effect on negative emotions. In this sense, experiences of positive emotions, in turn, should broaden habitual modes of thinking and build personal resources for coping with adversity. Positive emotions are likely to be the active ingredient that energizes this upward spiral that optimizes health and well-being.

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Understanding the need for research around this topic, this research is featured in the publication, Innovations in Global Maternal Health: Improving Prenatal and Postnatal Care Practices (IGI Global). This title explores new techniques, tools, and solutions that can be used in a global capacity to support women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period, regardless of their wealth or location. Highlighting a range of topics such as maternal care models, breastfeeding, and social media and internet health forums, this publication is an ideal reference source for world health organizations, obstetricians, midwives, lactation consultants, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, directors, counselors, therapists, academicians, and researchers interested in the latest practices currently in use that can combat maternal mortality and morbidity and lead to healthier women and newborns.

It is currently available in electronic format (EISBN: 9781799823520) through IGI Global’s Online Bookstore at a 50% discount, and the chapters are featured in IGI Global’s InfoSci®-Books database (5,900+ e-books). Recommend this publication and the InfoSci-Books database to your library to have access to this critical research, as well as thousands of other research resources, including the chapters and articles below, in the IGI Global InfoSci-Books database.

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In response to the timeliness and importance of this topic, we have made all of the below articles and chapters complimentary to access. As such, please feel free to integrate these resources into your research and share them across your network.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.


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