Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
COVID-19: Maternal and Child Health Outcomes in Diverse Pennsylvania Communities

COVID-19: Maternal and Child Health Outcomes in Diverse Pennsylvania Communities

Headshot of Kristin Sznajder
PI: Kristin Sznajder

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health #4100089395
Administered in: Penn State College of Medicine


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has impacted people worldwide, and pregnant people and their fetuses are at a higher risk for poorer health outcomes than the general population. Across Pennsylvania, there are approximately 135,000 live births annually with 30% born to people from a racial minority and 12% of the total born to mothers of Hispanic ethnicity. Further, pregnant people from minority groups have the highest incidence of adverse perinatal outcomes including preterm birth (<37 weeks gestation), low birthweight, and maternal and neonatal mortality. Emerging studies indicate that COVID-19 during pregnancy may lead to changes in placental histology, which has been found to contribute to excess preterm birth (<37 weeks gestation), low birthweight, and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission. Social determinants of health (SDOH) such as poverty, food insecurity, unstable housing, rurality/urbanity, and limited access to healthcare also contribute to this burden of negative maternal and child health outcomes and may intersect with COVID-19 to exacerbate poor health. Psychological distress is also an important pathway between SDOH and health and may be particularly critical to investigate in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. To investigate these gaps, our project will systematically test the degree to which COVID-19 during pregnancy increases the risk for adverse maternal, perinatal, and child development outcomes and whether maternal race, comorbidities, and other clinical and social factors impact health outcomes. We have designed a retrospective cohort study examining neighborhood, social, and health factors predicting COVID-19 and COVID-19 severity among pregnant women and a prospective cohort study following women from pregnancy to twelve months postpartum to incorporate self-reported data on psychological distress. We will pursue three aims:

  1. Aim 1. Identify individual- and neighborhood-level risk factors for COVID-19 and COVID-19 severity in pregnant women and related health outcomes for women and their children.
  2. Aim 2. Investigate the association between pandemic-related psychological distress, COVID-19 during pregnancy, and adverse maternal, perinatal, and infant health and development outcomes.
  3. Aim 3. Facilitate health science education and training for minority students in Pennsylvania.

At the completion of this project, we will have improved our understanding of the impact of COVID-19 during pregnancy on pregnant and postpartum people and their children in Pennsylvania. This study will help guide clinical practice, public health practice, and community outreach, and inform future research and public health policy.

Additional Faculty:

Headshot of Oladipo Aina
Oladipo Aina
Lincoln University
Headshot of Djibril Ba
Djibril Ba
Penn State
Headshot of Carrie Daymont
Carrie Daymont
Penn State
Headshot of Rina Das Eiden
Rina Das Eiden
Penn State
Headshot of Carla Gallagher
Carla Gallagher
Lincoln University
Headshot of James Gallagher
James Gallagher
Lincoln University
Headshot of Sharon Herring
Sharon Herring
Temple Health
Headshot of Eve Humphrey
Eve Humphrey
Lincoln University
Headshot of Wenke Hwang
Wenke Hwang
Penn State
Headshot of Jeffrey Kaiser
Jeffrey Kaiser
Penn State
Headshot of Richard Legro
Richard S. Legro
Penn State
Headshot of A. Dhanya Mackeen
A. Dhanya Mackeen
Geisinger Health
Headshot of Kathleen McTigue
Kathleen McTigue
University of Pittsburgh
Headshot of Wadia Mulla
Wadia Mulla
Temple Health
Headshot of Jaimey Pauli
Jaimey M. Pauli
Penn State
Headshot of Hyagriv Simhan
Hyagriv Simhan
Magee Women's Research Institute
Headshot of Douglas M Teti
Douglas Teti
Penn State

Research Staff:

  • Jeanette Boyce, Magee Women’s Research Institute, Research Coordinator
  • Cindy Drazenovich, Geisinger Health, Project Manager
  • Sarah Hankle, Magee Women’s Research Institute, Research Coordinator
  • Sarmina Hassan, Temple Health, Project Manager
  • Yojana Kanade, Penn State, Project Manager
  • Emily Klawson, Univeristy of Pittsburgh, Project Manager
  • Colin Malefakis, Temple Health, Research Coordinator
  • Emilee Post, Geisinger Health, Research Coordinator
  • Dodi Schaak, Penn State, Research Coordinator

Bioinformatics Team:

  • Nickie Capella, University of Pittsburgh, Project Manager
  • Hannah Daugherty, University of Pittsburgh, Project Manager
  • Mudit Gupta, Geisinger Health, PaTH Analyst
  • Paul Homburger, Penn State, PaTH Analyst
  • Janet Lee, Temple Health, Informaticist
  • Meredith Lewis, Geisinger Health, PaTH Analyst
  • Masayo Mesler, Penn State, PaTH Analyst
  • John Truella, Temple Health PaTH Analyst

Graduate Students:

  • Daxuan Deng, Penn State, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
  • Uttara Seshu, Penn State, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center