x
Breaking News
More () »

UNC researchers study how COVID stress in pregnant women may impact baby's health and development

Dr. Manuck says the lack of social interaction could also have a negative impact on a pregnant woman's mental health and therefore the health of her child.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A study recently released from Children’s National Hospital researchers found the stress a woman feels during pregnancy can affect the developing brain of her unborn child.

Now a University of North Carolina team is diving deeper into the issue, as so many are battling the unique stress of the pandemic. 

Several recent studies have found stress in pregnant women can have a negative impact on the fetus' development, resulting in things like impaired motor coordination, language delays, even negative impact’s on the child’s ability to handle stress themselves.

Now that we’re in a global pandemic, the issue is even more in the spotlight.

“Covid specific stress is unique in a lot of ways," said UNC fetal medicine professor Dr. Tracy Manuck, who is heading the study.

“A lot of our pregnant women, their lives are just really turned upside down," she explained. "Just like all of us, but in pregnancy even more so because our moms are worried about their unborn baby, in addition to themselves.”

RELATED: Where to receive your coronavirus vaccine in the Carolinas

Dr. Manuck says the lack of social interaction could also have a negative impact on a pregnant woman's mental health and therefore the health of her child. 

“One of the things that we do know is that individuals who have good social support, through friends or family generally have better pregnancy outcomes," she said. "That is challenged by the pandemic, because individuals are encouraged to remain socially distant, and it's harder to maintain that same degree of connection."

Dr. Manuck says they want pregnant women to not be fearful, but aware of the impacts stress could have on their babies, and to find healthy ways to cope.

“Meditation is an effective stress relief, reliever for some, you know, exercise for others, even just walking outside," she said. “Connecting with family and friends as best as possible."

RELATED: 'Most worried I've ever been' | North Carolina records another 10K new COVID cases

UNC's study is currently recruiting local moms-to-be within the UNC hospital network.

Dr. Manuck hopes this kind of research will help emphasize the importance of mental health in the medical community – particularly when it comes to pregnancy -- moving forward.

“Research is really the best way for us to move clinical care forward," she said. "It's the way for us to be able to take better care of patients.”