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Experiences navigating the pregnancy care continuum during the COVID-19 pandemic

Published:November 07, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.whi.2022.11.002
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      Abstract

      Introduction

      The COVID-19 pandemic led to unprecedented changes in care delivery across the pregnancy care continuum. Our primary objective with this research was to characterize the range of ways that the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care experiences.

      Methods

      Pregnant and recently pregnant patients (n=20) from obstetrics and gynecology clinical sites associated with Massachusetts General Hospital were interviewed about their experiences with prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Interview transcripts were analyzed for emergent themes.

      Results

      This sample included 20 pregnant and postpartum people, including 11 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 during pregnancy or postpartum and 9 with suspected infection. The ways in which COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 impacted experiences of prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care were complex and varied. Three themes were identified across narratives of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care: patient perceptions of diminished access to care, stigma due to COVID-19 infection, and limited capacity of providers to honor patient preferences.

      Conclusions

      A better understanding of pregnant and recently pregnant people’s experiences during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic can inform infection control policies and clinical care delivery practices that are more congruent with the needs and values of pregnant, birthing, and postpartum people as institutions craft responses to future pandemics. Approaches that maximize meaningful access across the pregnancy care continuum, center patients’ priorities within adapted care models, and honor patient preferences as much as possible are important aspects of an appropriate response to future waves of COVID-19 and other pandemics.

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