Research

The Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Pregnant Moms

Can Online Writing Decrease Anxiety, Improve Outcomes?


Johanna-Bick-newsroom
By Laurie Fickman | February 15, 2018

Johanna Bick, assistant professor of clinical psychology at the University of Houston, is launching a study of women who were pregnant during Hurricane Harvey, or who became pregnant within six months after, to track the role of stress in neonatal development and pregnancy outcomes and whether a simple online writing exercise can alleviate some of that anxiety.

“Pregnant women are an especially vulnerable group that can be highly affected by experiencing a natural disaster,” said Bick. “The more we learn about how different women deal with stress in these circumstances and how it affects birth outcomes, the better equipped we’ll be to develop prevention and intervention programs.”

Bick will study 1,000 Houston moms like Chandra Frederick, who was 29 weeks pregnant and went into false labor when Harvey struck. (Spoiler alert: Her baby Justin was born on time, and she reports he is adorable.) Three days after the monster storm, Frederick summoned the courage to walk with her three children outside her undamaged home in Spring to assess the neighborhood. She traipsed up and down the streets, talking to friends, taking in the damage and becoming increasingly anxious. “As we were walking I started having contractions,” said Frederick. “It was less than ten minutes after seeing all this damage, and I think it was completely due to stress.”

Frederick may be spot on with her diagnosis. Research indicates excessive exposure to stress hormones in utero may compromise fetal development and pregnancy outcomes.

“If we can reduce maternal stress, then we can potentially reduce the risk to fetal development,” said Bick, whose research project will ask pregnant women to participate in a brief, online writing exercise. The women will write about certain experiences for 15 minutes a day for 4 days. Because the goal of the study is to see if the writing will have an effect, some women will not be asked to write at all.

There’s no better place to test this simple intervention than in Harris County and Houston, where 72,000 babies will be born in the year following Hurricane Harvey. Bick will work with Suzanne King, a professor at McGill University in Canada and David M. Olson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alberta. King’s work includes four other prospective longitudinal studies of children exposed to maternal stress in utero as the result of a natural disaster: The Quebec ice storm of 1998, Iowa floods of 2008 and Queensland floods in Australia in 2011. Olsen works with King on a study of women exposed to the 2016 Alberta wildfires in Canada.

To learn more about the Harvey Mothers’s study, or to take part, please go to harveymomstudy.com.

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 45,000 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country.

Tags | Research



Social Posts

profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Caring for Veterans helps VA nurse find healing https://t.co/hRVTbPtXDk via @vacareers on #VAntagePoint

56 mins ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Huntington's and other neurological diseases multitude of molecular changes have helped scientists create a new approach to find what is driving these diseases. https://t.co/lUptEn0mYt

57 mins ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

Our expert Dr. Christopher Logothetis shares what makes our Prostate #CancerMoonshot unique: https://t.co/5gpw04T1Gm #CancerMoonshot #endcancer https://t.co/frhL4VfmO9

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

California boy visits Raleigh @VANatCemeteries in nationwide effort to honor Veterans https://t.co/skIlAtP0YD via @abc11_wtvd

2 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

First-gen students learn how to build rockets, connect with peers and fulfill college dreams at #RiceUniversity's Young Owls Leadership Camp. https://t.co/otf6W9r32K https://t.co/OQst25jY3E

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

#VAPodcast 109: GI Bill 74th anniversary w/ Barrett Bogue & Lauren Augustine of @studentvets https://t.co/LAwg5N5KdH via #VAntagePoint

3 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

30,000: # of outside pathology reports we review annually 25%: percentage of pathology findings that change from the initial diagnosis See how our pathologists changes lives: https://t.co/F5HBkCgjJi #endcancer

3 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

RT @Coping_Cancer: "My doctor told me I should #exercise regularly. What does that mean? How long and how often should I work out? What typ…

4 hours ago
profile_image

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VeteransAffairs

This Marine Corps Veteran calls his service his down payment. Explore the benefits the VA has to offer today at http://explore.va.gov.

4 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

Looking to reduce the risk of heart disease? You might want to think about taking a trip down the aisle. https://t.co/AddjPUl5WX

5 hours ago
profile_image

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VeteransAffairs

If you’re experiencing a crisis, or supporting a loved one who is, responders at the Veterans Crisis Line can help. Learn when it’s time to make the call.

7 hours ago
profile_image

Memorial Hermann

@memorialhermann

After a two-story fall outside her home, Meena suffered a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed from the pelvis down. But she took this life challenge as an opportunity to rewrite her story. Watch how she is living a new normal: https://t.co/twBxH9uykC. https://t.co/w0wxYkYzQE

7 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

.@BCM_SportsMed Dr. Mark Adickes talks about life after NFL with @CarliLloyd and how that experience shapes how he treats his patients. https://t.co/AiYGAdNlnN

7 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

RT @RiceUNews: Today #SaudiArabia puts an end to its ban on women driving, opening the way for millions of new drivers to navigate a countr…

7 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @UHMascots: Houston heat be like... #thatheatindextho https://t.co/hP831lvCpb

9 hours ago