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International study to look at effects of COVID-19 pandemic on pregnancy

August 25, 2020 — 

Two research scientists from the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences are part of a major international study designed to determine the effects a pandemic has on pregnant mothers and infants.

Launched in June, the two-year project, called the Conception Study, is led by the Université de Montréal pharmacy faculty and will have input from scientists in Canada, France and the United States. The researchers intend to recruit at least 5,000 women who are or have been pregnant during COVID-19, to take part in a broad study that aims to provide a valuable tool for understanding the consequences associated with the pandemic.

“So far, we do not have any data about pregnant women and babies born in the context of COVID-19, an epidemic with unprecedented consequences that has forced public powers to take an array of measures that have been more or less burdensome for pregnant and post-partum women and newborns,” stated Dr. Anick Bérard, director of the study.

Sherif Eltonsy

Dr. Sherif Eltonsy

Dr. Sherif Eltonsy, assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, and Dr. Dan Chateau, assistant professor of community health sciences at the Max Rady College of Medicine, lead the Manitoba portion of the study.

Eltonsy, who specializes in mother-infant health research, said the study will look at how social distancing, quarantines and restrictions on medical appointments resulting from the pandemic have affected mothers and their newborns in different regions around the world.

“The idea is to understand the impact of COVID-19, the restrictions and disruptive processes on the health of mothers and their babies,” he said, noting there are currently close to 4,000 women who have registered internationally, many through a social media campaign on Facebook.

Dan Chateau

Dr. Dan Chateau

One of the study’s goals is to understand pregnant women’s experience with COVID-19 and determine whether the intensity and severity of episodes of depression or stress related to the pandemic and its related restrictions are related to the stage of pregnancy.

Part of this includes a change to medical appointments and prescriptions, noted Chateau, whose research specializes in the effects of medication taken during pregnancy.

“When we’re looking at the pandemic restrictions and the impact of the limitations and services, there’s not currently an end in sight for COVID-19,” Chateau said. “Luckily in Manitoba we’ve had virtual visits, but that may not be the same thing everywhere else.”

He noted that regional differences will be able to give a full picture of the effects across Canada and other participating countries.

“Manitoba has a larger rural and remote population compared to most other provinces, and service delivery is different in different parts of the country. It’s important to play a part in the larger picture,” he said.

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