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Early pregnancy anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic: preliminary findings from the UCSF ASPIRE study.



Antenatal anxiety has been linked to adverse obstetric outcomes, including miscarriage and preterm birth. However, most studies investigating anxiety during pregnancy, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, have focused on symptoms during the second and third trimester. This study aims to describe the prevalence of anxiety symptoms early in pregnancy and identify predictors of early pregnancy anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.


We assessed baseline moderate-to-severe anxiety symptoms after enrollment in the UCSF ASPIRE (Assessing the Safety of Pregnancy in the Coronavirus Pandemic) Prospective Cohort from May 2020 through February 2021. Pregnant persons < 10 weeks' gestation completed questions regarding sociodemographic characteristics, obstetric/medical history, and pandemic-related experiences. Univariate and multivariate hierarchical logistic regression analyses determined predictors of moderate or severe anxiety symptoms (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 questionnaire score ≥ 10). All analyses performed with Statistical Analysis Software (SAS®) version 9.4.


A total of 4,303 persons completed the questionnaire. The mean age of this nationwide sample was 33 years of age and 25.7% of participants received care through a fertility clinic. Over twelve percent of pregnant persons reported moderate-to-severe anxiety symptoms. In univariate analysis, less than a college education (p < 0.0001), a pre-existing history of anxiety (p < 0.0001), and a history of prior miscarriage (p = 0.0143) were strong predictors of moderate-to-severe anxiety symptoms. Conversely, having received care at a fertility center was protective (26.6% vs. 25.7%, p = 0.0009). COVID-19 related stressors including job loss, reduced work hours during the pandemic, inability to pay rent, very or extreme worry about COVID-19, and perceived stress were strongly predictive of anxiety in pregnancy (p < 0.0001). In the hierarchical logistic regression model, pre-existing history of anxiety remained associated with anxiety during pregnancy, while the significance of the effect of education was attenuated.


Pre-existing history of anxiety and socioeconomic factors likely exacerbated the impact of pandemic-related stressors on early pregnancy anxiety symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite on-going limitations for in-person prenatal care administration, continued emotional health support should remain an important focus for providers, particularly when caring for less privileged pregnant persons or those with a pre-existing history of anxiety.

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