Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Pregnancy can already be a stressful time for women and their partners. In addition to common concerns about becoming a parent, many expectant mothers worry about the health of their pregnancy and the health of their baby. The emergence of Zika virus can be an additional unsettling consideration for those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
Managing stress for women who want to conceive and women who are pregnant is important for promoting healthier pregnancies, healthier births, and better long-term health outcomes for families. Prenatal stress can effect neonatal development and increase the risk for preterm labor, preterm birth, and low birth weight.
As a healthcare provider, concerned patients may ask you questions about the risk of Zika virus to their pregnancy, or you may notice symptoms of stress and anxiety. You have an opportunity to provide accurate information and resources about Zika, and also to provide information about how managing stress is important for the health and wellbeing of the pregnant woman and her fetus.
Conduct a risk assessment regarding Zika exposure. Understanding the level of risk and whether women have been infected can help you and patients understand how best to manage some of their concerns about Zika virus. For example, if the patient has not traveled to an area where there is active transmission of Zika, does not live in an area where there is active transmission, or does not have a spouse or partner that has traveled to an area where there is active Zika transmission, then you may be able to reassure the patient that they have a very low risk and help alleviate their concerns. For those with higher risk, follow the CDC clinical guidance and check for updates as new information becomes available.
Provide reassurance. Reassure your patients that it is normal to have concerns during pregnancy. However, if their worries are significant and affecting their daily life, patients may benefit from seeking support from a mental health professional. Provide stress management guidance and strategies such as the ones described below.
Have a conversation about the concerns and worries. Correct any misinformation and share what you know is accurate. Provide references to legitimate sources of information about Zika for pregnant women. Information for pregnant women is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/zika/pregnancy. You can also find Zika information, guidance, and resources for health care providers at www.cdc.gov/zika.
Provide a mental health referral, if needed. Provide information about where to seek additional professional mental health support, if needed. This may be a good opportunity to screen for anxiety or depression using one of the tools listed below.
Early support, stress management strategies, and psychosocial interventions should be offered to all pregnant women and their partners, regardless of Zika exposure status. Relaxation during pregnancy may have positive effects on fetal development and neonatal outcomes. Share the following stress management strategies with your patient:
Screening tools available for depression, stress, and anxiety, during pregnancy
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