Stress and safety of maternal and newborn healthcare workers early in the COVID-19 pandemic: a repeat cross-sectional analysis from a global online survey from March 2020 to March 2021

Ashley Ezema, Matthew Caputo, Aline Semaan, Lenka Benova, Shu-Ting Liang, Lisa R Hirschhorn

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: This study aims to characterise the physical and psychological well-being of maternal and newborn healthcare workers (MNHCWs) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DESIGN: Observational repeated cross-sectional study.

SETTING: An online questionnaire was distributed to MNHCWs around the globe in three separate rounds from March 2020 to March 2021.

PARTICIPANTS: Total samples of N=1357 (round 1) and N=420 (round 3) primarily consisted of doctors, midwives and nurses in maternal and newborn specialties. Samples represented all WHO regions, with 33% (round 1) and 42% (round 3) from low- or middle-income countries (LMICs).

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Responses from rounds 1 (March-June 2020) and 3 (December 2020-March 2021) were analysed to measure self-reported levels of relative stress and workplace protection from COVID-19, while associated factors were determined through multivariable ordinal logistic regression.

RESULTS: In round 1, 90% of MNHCWs reported increased stress levels and 45% reported insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) access. Nurses and physicians were less likely to report increased stress than midwives at the pandemic onset. Factors associated with increased stress included being female, being from an LMIC and insufficient PPE. In round 3, 75% reported similar or increased stress while 10% reported insufficient PPE. In both rounds, over 50% of MNHCWs felt relatively or completely unprotected from COVID-19 in the workplace. Those from LMICs were more likely to report feeling unprotected, while receiving organisational information that valued safety was associated with better feelings of protection in the workplace.

CONCLUSIONS: Among our international sample of MNHCWs, we observed high rates of self-reported stress increase at the start of the pandemic with persistence or increase up to a year later. High rates of feeling unprotected persisted even as PPE became more available. These results may inform interventions needed to support and protect MNHCWs during this and future pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere072155
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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