Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Dietary Habits and Lifestyle Among Palestinian Pregnant Women in East Jerusalem

Rana Samih Ghabbash
رنا سميح غباش
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Al-Quds University
COVID-19 viral infection emerged in 2019 in China, and WHO reported it as a pandemic in March 2020. Public health recommendations and governmental measures during the Pandemic have resulted in several restrictions, including lockdown, social distancing, self-quarantine, and travel restrictions. These measures are essential to decrease the spread of COVID- 19, but on the other hand, there is a negative impact on health behaviors and lifestyles. The impact of these restrictions on the economic, social, psychological, and clinical levels will consequently affect dietary habits and lifestyle. High levels of apparent stress developed by the preventive measures such as lockdowns during the pandemic are associated with poorer diet, physical inactivity, and reduced sleep duration and quality. There is no adequate information available about the effect of the Pandemic on pregnant women. However, since what resulted from past epidemics (SARS and MERS) and the mental and physical changes during pregnancy, pregnant women are more likely to be affected by the virus. Aim: The study aims to assess the impact of the pandemic on dietary habits, lifestyles, and stress among pregnant women. Methodology: This study is a part of the international online survey launched in October 2020 by several Arab countries. A random sample of 302 participants was selected from the Red Crescent Society Hospital's patients' registry. The selection criteria include currently pregnant or women who gave birth on or after March 1st, 2020, at Red Crescent Society Hospital in Jerusalem. Interviews have been conducted after women agreement to participate through phone calls due to the pandemic situation, and the answers were directly filled using an anonymous online survey using Google forms. The questionnaire includes six parts: personal information, pregnant woman health, nutritional status, lifestyle, and psychological status. Findings: One hundred ninety-nine participants completed the survey, 83 were still pregnant during the data collection period, and 116 gave birth. The results showed that 74% of the participants lived in urban areas, 59% were less than 30 years old, 62% had iv secondary school level and higher, and 60% were unemployed. More than two-thirds of the participants reported that their income decreased since the lockdown start (74 %). Two-thirds of the study participants indicated a change in eating times during the Pandemic. In addition, the study results showed an around 5% deviation in participants’ dietary habits pre and post pandemic. Moreover, the results found that 67% of the participants decreased their physical activity during the pandemic. The percentages of people who use smartphones, computers, and televisions for 3 hours and more have risen from 44.8% to 58.2%, 4% to 38%, and 3% to 47%, respectively. Furthermore, sleep disturbances have been reported by about 77% of participants. Finally, the results showed that the Pandemic had imposed higher stress levels on the participants; 84% of the participants reported increased stress during the Pandemic; though, in this study, stress, and tension were associated with changes in eating patterns during the Pandemic. Conclusion: some changes in dietary habits were associated with the pandemic-related events. The Pandemic contributed to lower physical activity, sleep disturbances, and feelings of stress and tension among participants. Evaluating the changes in pregnant women's dietary habits and physical activity during the lockdown is crucial. It will help predict the pregnant women's future health and well-being after the Pandemic, consequently taking the ideal impact-reducing strategies and plans to better pregnant women's health.