Acceptability and Impact of a Prenatal Internet Intervention for Promoting Maternal Mental Health in the COVID‑19 Context
Pregnancy and the postpartum are known periods when mothers are at heightened risk for psychological distress, including elevated depression, anxiety and stress. With the COVID‑19 outbreak concerns related to fear of infection, maternal and infant health, financial stresses and social isolation resulting from extraordinary public health measures to slow the spread of COVID‑19 are likely to exponentially increase psychological distress in expectant mothers. A strong body of research has shown that even mild to moderate maternal emotional distress during pregnancy adversely impacts mothers and their offspring. Given the likely increase in emotional distress experienced by pregnant women during the current COVID‑19 pandemic, there is an urgent need to promote the mental health of pregnant women with programs that can be delivered remotely. Out team has been ahead of the curve in recognizing the need for developing evidence based online care strategies. We have developed a bilingual prototype website entitled HealthyMoms which is comprised of accurate and understandable information on the impact of stress, depression and anxiety during pregnancy. Tools to promote emotional well-being and healthy behaviours during pregnancy are provided. The present COVID‑19 crisis and the expected mental health fallout from the crisis presents an important opportunity to evaluate the potential of our online platform to address the mental health needs of pregnant women and reduce the risk of perinatal depression. Our approach to promote maternal mental health during pregnancy with a far-reaching web-based support program fills an important and urgent gap to address the short and long-term psychological impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic, with the potential to positively impact maternal, infant, and family outcomes.