COVID has put significant stress on pregnant women, according to a study released Tuesday. It shows that nearly 70% of women struggled with at least moderate levels of distress during the pandemic, and 20% experienced symptoms of depression.
Research offers more evidence just how distressing the coronavirus pandemic has been on moms – and the continued need to better support pregnant women as it drags on.
“The high levels of distress underscore the importance of putting mental health at the center of supports for this population,” said study author Dr Tali Bogler, family physician and chair of the Obstetrics Department. family medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto, in a statement. His team’s findings were published in the journal Canadian Family Physician.
Having to do it all alone is one of the biggest concerns of pregnant moms
The authors interviewed nearly 1,500 women in Canada who were pregnant during the pandemic, giving them a list of pregnancy issues related to COVID and asking them what, if any, they were worried about.
The main concerns were hospital policies regarding who might be in the room with them during labor, not being able to introduce their new baby to friends and family, getting sick with COVID-19 during pregnancy, not being able to contact the hospital. family and friends for help during the grueling postpartum period, and conflicting information about COVID during pregnancy and newborns – especially at the onset of the pandemic.
Researchers found differences in what worried first-time parents and second or third time parents. New parents were particularly concerned about the cancellation of prenatal classes and hospital visits, while parents who already had children at home worried that these children could transmit COVID to their babies.
A major limitation of the new study is that there is no survey conducted before the pandemic with a similar group of women with whom the authors were able to compare their results. Researchers have reported pre-pandemic surveys in Japan that estimate distress levels in pregnant women at over 30%, not 70%.
Other studies from around the world have also shown how emotionally taxing the pandemic has been for pregnant women. A California-based survey found that women’s risk of depression during pregnancy essentially doubled amid COVID. Research from Italy suggests that the number of pregnant women struggling with “abnormal” anxiety levels has also doubled.
Give pregnant women the support they need
Of course, pregnancy and the postpartum period can be stressful and emotionally draining, even at the best of times. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1 in 8 women typically suffer from postpartum depression, although many believe this underestimates the problem.
Over the past 18 months, pregnant women have faced unique stressors, including changing hospital policies and unprecedented levels of isolation during and after pregnancy.
Still, researchers say there is a lot that can be done to help right now. Doctors and midwives can monitor their patients more often through video visits and can better disseminate factual information through social media. They must continue to be very vigilant in checking not only how women’s pregnancies are progressing, but how they are doing emotionally during and after pregnancy.
Friends and family can help too. An expert previously told HuffPost that it was important to just validate how difficult this experience is for pregnant women and that they might be stuck in an “anxiety loop.” Ask open-ended questions about the condition of the women and offer hands-on support by sending care packages and food, especially in the postpartum period, when many women may be reluctant to allow visits from others .
“Many parents report that people contact each other in the first six weeks when they themselves are running on the adrenaline and the thrill of novelty,” an expert told HuffPost. But “there is often a steep fall afterwards. “
As the pandemic spreads, however, moms need support not just during pregnancy, but in the months after, more than ever.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but directions may change as scientists find out more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most recent recommendations.