What happened with pregnancy complications during the COVID-19 lockdowns?

Read about the changes to pregnancy complications during the COVID-19 lockdowns that Maddy discovered in her independent research project.

I’m Maddy, and I’ve been an RA in the APE lab since the fall of 2022. In my foray into the research process, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a wide variety of psychological research topics. My background mostly lies in biology, and I earned my bachelor’s degree in biology in the spring of 2023.

My interests in biology, psychology, and public health are what ultimately inspired me to pursue my independent research project. My independent research focused on assessing the cultural and behavioral impacts of COVID-19 lockdowns on pregnancy complications nationwide during the pandemic. Utilizing archival birth records obtained from the CDC, we found that the rates of various pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preterm birth, low birth weight, and high birth weight were all lower immediately following the pandemic. We also found the rates of hypertension, eclampsia, and labor induction increased immediately following the pandemic. To further delve into these findings, we assessed the monthly change in these complications and found a dramatic decrease in preterm birth and low birth weight. These observed changes, likely induced by behavioral changes during the pandemic, suggest that these conditions are more dynamic than we originally thought. Additionally, they can serve as a novel avenue to explore the public health implications of pregnancy complications. Given these findings, Dr. Ayers and I plan to further monitor the trends in pregnancy complications following the pandemic, with the ultimate goal of publishing our findings.

Working on this project has helped me acquire skills that will extend into future research endeavors as well as into my career path outside the lab. Presenting my findings at research conferences has refined my communication abilities and exposed me to engaging discussions with my peers and numerous experts in their fields. I presented my findings at the Boise State University Undergraduate Research Showcase, where I engaged in enriching discussions with University faculty and fellow undergraduate researchers. This experience served as a valuable trial run, allowing me to refine my presentation skills in preparation for the 2023 Human Behavior and Evolution Society in Palm Springs, California. At this conference, I had the opportunity to present my research to researchers studying human behavior and like-minded peers and network and connect with a diverse array of amazing people. I also got in my fair share of sightseeing! Exploring beautiful Palm Springs and visiting the local farmers’ market was an added bonus!

Another skill added to my tool kit due to this experience has been creating conference-worthy posters, further contributing to my ability to communicate my research findings effectively. I’ve become familiar with the intricacies of data collection and literature review, emphasizing the importance of these crucial, though sometimes tedious, aspects of research. Throughout the data collection process, APA format has become second nature to me (so when your teachers tell you to become well acquainted with APA format, don’t ignore them like I did!). I’m also starting to learn the intricate process of publishing findings in research journals.

Although this experience has equipped me with a new perspective on the process of research, it definitely hasn’t come without challenges. Most notably, at the research conferences I previously alluded to, I found my work openly challenged right before my eyes. While it may have been unexpected (and left a slight bruise on my ego), it highlighted a beautifully unique aspect of the scientific community: the willingness to engage in constructive criticism openly. A fundamental aspect of science is rigorously testing and refining work to explain our world as accurately as possible, and my independent project was no exception. So although initially discouraging, this experience has illuminated the collaborative and growth-oriented nature of scientific discourse.

Another opportunity for growth I have experienced is delving into advanced psychology topics without a substantial background in the field. Initially, I found reading intricate and (jargon-laden) literature a bit more difficult than my peers with a greater foundation in psychology. This challenge ultimately became an avenue for growth as engaging in discussions with my peers and Dr. Ayers (often making a fool of myself in the process) has expanded my understanding of the field. It even sparked a newfound interest, further leading me to enroll in an additional psychology course in my senior year of undergrad.

Ultimately, my experience in the APE lab has been one full of growth and development as a researcher, thanks to the inclusive environment where individuals from all backgrounds and fields of study are encouraged to grow and thrive.


If you are interested in learning more about the project, check out Maddy's poser here: https://scholarworks.boisestate.edu/under_showcase_2023/89/

If you are interested in learning more about Maddy's experience in the lab, please reach out to here here: https://forms.gle/6bgk6dGm4LVsGVrY8