Changes in social support of pregnant and postnatal mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Zhou J, Havens KL, Starnes CP, Pickering TA, Brito NH, Hendrix CL, Thomason ME, Vatalaro TC, Smith BA. Changes in social support of pregnant and postnatal mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Midwifery. 2021 Dec;103:103162. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2021.103162. Epub 2021 Oct 1. PMID: 34649034; PMCID: PMC8485715.

Our objectives were to assess in perinatal women: the most effective methods used to meet social support needs during COVID-19, the impact of COVID-19 on self-reported social support levels, and how perceived change in social support related to distress, depression, and mental health.

One-time survey administered from April to August 2020


Pregnant and postpartum women with infants less than 6 months of age

Measurement and Findings
Participants indicated the methods they used to meet social support needs during COVID-19. They self-rated their social support level pre- and during pandemic and their distress, depressive symptoms, and mental health changes on a Likert scale. Out of 1142 participants, the most effective methods for obtaining social support during the pandemic were virtual means (e.g. video call) and interaction with friends. There was a significant difference in distribution of self-reported levels of social support before and during the pandemic, with more respondents reporting a decrease in support. Decreases in social support were associated with higher distress levels, higher levels of depressive symptoms, and poorer mental health.

Key Conclusions
Perinatal women reported decreased social support during the COVID-19 pandemic which was associated with poorer mental health. Using virtual means of social support and support provided by friends had the largest positive effect on perceived social support levels.

Implications for Practice
Interventions using virtual support means from friends may be helpful to improve social support and mental health in this population.