Substance use and mental health in pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic

Crystal Lederhos Smith, Sara F. Waters, Danielle Spellacy, Ekaterina Burduli,
Olivia Brooks, Cara L. Carty, Samantha Ranjo, Sterling McPherson & Celestina Barbosa-Leiker
(2021): Substance use and mental health in pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic,
Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/02646838.2021.1916815
Open Access Article:


Objectives: We examined the prevalence of substance use as a coping mechanism and identified relationships between maternal mental health over time and use of substances to cope during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic among pregnant women in the U.S.A.

Methods: Self-reported repeated measures from 83 pregnant women were collected online in April 2020 and May 2020. Women retrospectively reported their mental/emotional health before the pandemic, as well as depression, stress, and substance use as a result of the pandemic at both time points. Linear regression measured cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between mental health and substance use.

Results: Pre-COVID-19 reports of poorer mental/emotional health (b = 0.46) were significantly (p < .05) associated with number of substances used to cope with the pandemic. Elevated stress (b = 0.35) and depressive symptoms (b = 0.27) and poorer mental/emotional health (b = 0.14) in April were also significantly related to higher numbers of substances used in May (p < .05).

Conclusion: Pregnant women’s psychological well-being may be a readily measured indicator of substance use risk during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Interventions addressing increased stress and depression may also mitigate the emergence of greater substance use among pregnant women.

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