Pregnant Woman in Nature

Stress in Pregnancy

The following studies on stress during pregnancy:


1. QF2011 The effects of the Queensland flood on pregnant women, their pregnancies, and their children’s early development

2. Birth in the time of Covid-19

3. The impact of Covid-19 on Aboriginal women

QF2011 The effects of the Queensland flood on pregnant women, their pregnancies, and their children's early development

We are members of the Stress in Pregnancy International Alliance and conducted the Queensland Flood Study in 2011. Please find the details of the Alliance here. This site also hosts the website for the Queensland Flood Study. You can read all about the study including the publications and presentations here

Birth In The Time Of Covid

Perinatal mental health issues cause tremendous suffering for women, strain intimate relationships and increase risk for emotional and behavioural problems in their children. For this reason, the widespread psychological distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly worrying for those with an interest in the wellbeing of pregnant women, new mothers and infants.  However, evidence is lacking concerning best practice for supporting pregnant women through a global health pandemic to reduce risk of poor outcomes. Our team have conducted research examining the impact of stress in pregnancy during disasters (floods, hurricanes and wild fires) for over 20-years. We have identified how the objective, subjective and cognitive aspects of stress impact children’s cognitive, behavioural, physical, and motor functioning across development in both positive and negative ways. We have started to understand what interventions may reduce stress, and the subsequent impact of that stress, including social and emotional support and certain models of maternity care. 


Our Study: 

Our study will use interviews and surveys to increase understanding of the perspectives of women who are pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular focus on their experience of maternity care, how their mental health was supported during the pandemic, and how the system may be enhanced to best meet their mental health needs.  We will also investigate the experiences of family members and maternity care workers. Our study will have four phases:

Phase 1: 

In-depth qualitative interviews with pregnant women and maternity care workers (midwives, student midwives, general practitioners and obstetricians).


Phase 2: 

Informed by Phase 1, a prospective cohort study will use an online survey to assess objective hardship and subjective distress associated with COVID-19.  Hair cortisol samples will be obtained to examine the physiological stress response in women pregnant during this time.  We will examine the extent to which the effects of stress related to COVID-19 during pregnancy on postnatal maternal and infant wellbeing may be buffered by (a) greater continuity of maternity care, and (b) social support.

Phase 3: 

Informed by Phases 1 and 2, in-depth qualitative interviews will be conducted with women from the following groups:

  • First Nations women

  • Women from migrant and refugee backgrounds

  • Women living in rural and remote geographical locations

  • Women with elevated depression and anxiety during pregnancy

  • Women experiencing different models of maternity care


Phase 4:

Informed by Phases 1 and 2, surveys and in-depth qualitative interviews will be conducted with partners and grandparents to understand the experience of pregnancy, birth and postnatal wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic from their point of view.


Anticipated Outcomes: 

Our results will improve understanding of how Australia’s health care system can reduce or prevent adverse perinatal impacts of stress arising from a global pandemic, or other large-scale crisis, for pregnant women and their unborn children. These findings will inform evidence-based recommendations for the maternity and mental health care of all pregnant, birthing and postnatal women and infants during a crisis, particularly women from First Nations, migrant and refugee backgrounds, those living remotely and those experiencing antenatal depression and anxiety.

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The impact of Covid-19 on Aboriginal women

Read more here.