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COVID fuels depression in pregnant women and new moms

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By Cara Murez
HealthDay reporter

WEDNESDAY, December 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) – COVID-19 could be the cause of a worrying increase in the number of women suffering anxiety and the Depression before and shortly after delivery, says a new study.

Researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital interviewed more than 1,100 Pregnant and postpartum women between May 21 and August 17. They found that 36%, or more than 1 in 3, had significant levels of the Depression. Before the pandemic, the rates of perinatal depression were approximately 15% to 20%.

More than 1 in 5 women reported significant levels of generalized anxiety. About 1 in 10 people had post-traumatic stress disorder above clinical threshold.

“We know that the perinatal period is already a period during which women are particularly vulnerable Mental Health concerns, ”said study author Cindy Liu, from the departments of pediatric neonatal medicine and psychiatry.

“We mainly wanted to see what factors related to the pandemic might be associated with mental health symptoms,” she said in a press release from the hospital.

Researchers used standardized measures to assess COVID-19-related health issues and experiences of pain.

“We were looking for associations that educate on what we can do as clinical providers to better support families during this time,” said co-author Dr Carmina Erdei, Department of Pediatric Neonatal Medicine.

“We wanted to know what is taken away when a new mother is not able to participate in the usual rituals around the birth and welcoming of a new family member. The survey responses offer valuable information about this and help guide what we as healthcare professionals can do better, ”she said in the statement.

About 9% of new mothers said they felt a strong sense of grief, loss or disappointment because of the pandemic. This group was five times more likely to have significant mental health symptoms, according to the study.

More women, around 18%, said they felt very worried or extremely concerned about the health risks of COVID-19. This group was four times more likely to have clinically significant psychiatric symptoms, according to the study. The researchers also found that people with pre-existing mental health diagnoses were about two to four times more likely to have significant measures of depression, anxiety, or PTSD.


The survey responses reflect what researchers observed clinically in the early months of the pandemic, when many of the usual perinatal supports were limited due to fears surrounding the risks of COVID-19 infection.

Obstetric practices were also unable to screen for mental health symptoms, when people’s mental health was most under pressure, the authors noted. Since then, however, mental health supports have returned in new forms, notably through virtual platforms.

Limitations of the study include that a high percentage of participants were white and had a college education. About 45% had a household income over $ 150,000. The research misses the prospects of other important segments of the population, Liu said.

The research was published online recently in Psychiatry research.

More information

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more on COVID-19 and pregnancy.

SOURCE: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, press release, December 1, 2020

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