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How Past Pandemics Inform Pregnancy Care and Treatment During COVID-19

In This Video

  • During the H1N1 pandemic, the OBGYN Department created an interdisciplinary core within the department and hospital that analyzed new information from the Department of Public Health and CDC to interpret guidelines for the obstetrical population
  • Starting in March 2020, the team started a database of pregnant people who were symptomatic, exposed or tested and found to have COVID-19. That database informs research on pregnancy outcomes and treatment of pregnant people with COVID-19
  • Research also explored women's experiences of prenatal care, labor and delivery and postpartum during a pandemic. This qualitative work will help care for pregnant patients as this pandemic continues

In this video, Ilona Goldfarb, MD, MPH, maternal-fetal medicine specialist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital, discusses how past pandemics like H1N1 have informed the department's approach to the care and treatment of pregnant people during COVID-19.


I have been very interested in perinatal infectious disease, particularly pandemics, going back to the H1N1 pandemic, with the focus really being on trying to understand how these pandemics affect pregnancy, pregnancy care, pregnancy outcomes and really even more so the lived experiences of pregnant women during pandemics. What I learned from the H1N1 pandemic was that it was important to create an interdisciplinary core within our department and around the hospital that would help us to analyze information as it was coming from the Department of Public Health and from the CDC and really interpret them down to the level of the obstetrical population.

So thinking about my research in particular there's two avenues that I'm working on, one avenue is looking at pregnancy outcomes. So what we have since March 2020 is a database of pregnant women who have been symptomatic or exposed, tested and found to have COVID throughout pregnancy at different time points and now we're finally going to be able to see what the pregnancy outcomes were associated with this condition at different time points in pregnancy. So our database will help to inform our treatment of pregnant women with COVID-19.

The second aspect of my research is delving a little bit deeper into the patient experience. What is it like to be pregnant during a national pandemic? Looking at women's experiences during prenatal care, during labor and particularly the very vulnerable postpartum period. I'm hoping that this very in-depth qualitative work will help us to take better care of patients as this pandemic continues or in the face of future pandemics.

It has been a wonderful experience to do research in the Department of OB/GYN at Mass General. Even in the midst of the chaos of the original surge of COVID-19 there was so much support for the combination of important clinical care as well as absolutely critical research endeavors.

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