Young parents’ experiences of pregnancy and parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study in the United Kingdom
Moltrecht B., Dalton LJ., Hanna JR., Law C., Rapa E.
Young parents (aged 16–24 years) in the perinatal period are at an increased risk of poor mental health especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to multiple risk factors including social and economic instability. COVID-19 related restrictions had profound implications for the delivery of perinatal care services and other support structures for young parents. Investigating young parents’ experiences during the pandemic, including their perceived challenges and needs, is important to inform good practice and provide appropriate support for young parents. Qualitative interviews were conducted with young parents (n = 21) during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom from February – May 2021. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Three key themes were identified to describe parents’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents reported specific COVID-19 related anxieties and stressors, including worries around contracting the virus and increased feelings of distress due to uncertainty created by the implications of the pandemic. Parents described feeling alone both at home and during antenatal appointments and highlighted the absence of social support as a major area of concern. Parents also felt their perinatal care had been disrupted by the pandemic and experienced difficulties accessing care online or over the phone. This study highlights the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young parents, including their mental wellbeing and the perinatal support they were able to access. Insights from this study can inform the support and services offered to families going forward. Specifically, the findings emphasise the importance of (a) supporting both parents during perinatal appointments, (b) providing parents with mental health support early on and (c) finding ways to facilitate communication pathways between professionals and parents.