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COVID-19 Is Increasing Risk of Anxiety, Depression in New Moms

new mom holding baby

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Key Takeaways

  • Moms who give birth during the pandemic are more likely to experience anxiety and depression.
  • Despite social distancing requirements, it's still possible to get help if you're experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression and/or anxiety.

If you’re a new mom who’s experiencing anxiety and feelings of depression, know that you’re definitely not alone. Giving birth at any time is a major life event; adding a pandemic to the mix is a huge deal, and it can exacerbate those “baby blues” feelings that are so common right after having a baby. These are scary times, and there isn’t much reassuring news to turn to. But, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer alone, isolated from your support network.

Here, we’ll take a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected new moms, especially when it comes to postpartum depression symptoms you may be experiencing, and strategies for getting the help you need to feel like yourself again.

Has the Pandemic Made PPD Worse? 

We’re only five months into the pandemic at this point, so there aren’t yet any large-scale studies available that determine a link between the pandemic and higher levels of postpartum depression in new moms.

But, says Daniel Roshan, MD, FACOG, FACS, a high-risk maternal-fetal doctor, “there are studies that show an increase in perinatal anxiety and depression as a result of the pandemic. We know women who experience these symptoms during pregnancy are much more likely to have them exacerbated in the post-partum period.”

So it’s only natural that you may be experiencing heightened feelings of anxiety, fear and sadness right now.

Daniel Roshan, MD

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted pregnant and postpartum women immensely; mostly through breakdown of support systems but also by decreasing access to care.

— Daniel Roshan, MD

And there are lots of other ways COVID-19 may be impacting you as well. Consider the following:

  • You’re concerned for your baby’s health. While young children have thankfully been spared the worst of the virus, you probably still want to do everything you can to protect your little one. And of course, you have your own health to consider as well; it’s much more difficult to care for a baby if you’re sick.
  • Your birth didn’t go as planned. From wearing a mask during delivery to tough hospital policies that kept Grandma out of the picture, you may be reeling from a pregnancy and birth that weren’t filled with the warm, happy experiences you were hoping for.
  • You’re not getting the help you need. Many couples plan to have family members stay with them for a period of time right after bringing their baby home. Others turn to night nurses or other external sources of support. With cases of COVID-19 increasing in many states, this is no longer a viable option, leaving you tending to your new baby’s needs on your own.
  • Social isolation is the new normal. It’s not just help you’re looking for. You’re probably yearning to share your new bundle of joy with all your friends and family, just like you envisioned. But of course, this no longer feels like a safe option.

With all these factors complicating things, it’s more important than ever to monitor the way you’re feeling after giving birth, and ensure you get help if you need it.

“A study conducted in Quebec shows that women who are pregnant during this pandemic are twice as likely than their pre-pandemic counterparts to experience anxiety and/or depressive symptoms during pregnancy,” says Roshan. So if you’ve given birth over the past few months, be sure to work with your partner to recognize the signs of postpartum depression.

Signs of PPD

The postpartum period is a fragile one, even in the best of times. And similar to what you may be experiencing, most new moms go through a period of “baby blues”. These are the types of feelings that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Roshan says “Postpartum blues can include depressive symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia and lack of interest, but these symptoms are mild and usually self-limiting. You may see symptoms that develop two to three days after delivery, but most often, you’ll probably feel much better within two weeks.” 

But if things seem to be getting worse instead of better, you may be dealing with postpartum depression rather than passing feelings of anxiety and sadness. Roshan shares some of the signs of PPD to look for so you can act early if you’re suffering:

  • depressed mood
  • decreased pleasure in activities
  • significant weight loss or gain
  • insomnia or hypersomnia
  • psychomotor agitation
  • fatigue/loss of energy
  • feelings of guilt/worthlessness
  • decreased ability to concentrate
  • thoughts about or plan for suicide or death

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Help for New Moms

Here’s the good news: there are ways to get back on track if you feel your mental health may be suffering in the wake of giving birth during a pandemic. Sure, things are more complicated right now. But you deserve to feel your best, especially during this exciting (but difficult!) time. Here are some ways you can safely and successfully navigate being a new mom during a global pandemic. 

Online Mommy and Me groups

Sometimes all you need is to vent with someone who understands your particular situation. So don’t discount the benefits of an online support group! From this Facebook group with more than 35,000 members, to this curated list of groups from Mother.ly, there are lots of ways to find and connect with a tribe during the pandemic.

Telemedicine

Believe it or not, your relationship with your caregiver is a big part of your mental health outcome after your baby is born.

Daniel Roshan, MD

The pandemic has kept many women from keeping scheduled prenatal appointments or has forced them to move away from the provider who was caring for them during pregnancy. This makes it very hard for providers to identify higher risk women during pregnancy and to follow up with them postpartum.

— Daniel Roshan, MD

You don’t have to wait for your six-week postpartum appointment to seek help; many providers have implemented safety precautions that will allow you to be seen in the office. Others still have set up times for video appointments as telemedicine has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. Your OBGYN may be able to clue in to the way you’re feeling and provide help before things get out of hand.

Social Bubble With Other New Parents or Extended Family

If you’re truly in need of some form of socialization, consider forming a social bubble. This newfangled term often refers to two or three families who gather with one another, but maintain strict quarantine and social distancing rules with all others. While still more risky than a full quarantine, a social bubble allows you to toe the line between isolation and pre-pandemic life. That’s something you may need more than you realize right now.

Socially Distanced Gatherings

Similarly, there’s no reason to feel like you can’t share your new baby with important family members. While Grandma may not be able to snuggle your little one in her arms quite yet, a socially distanced meeting outside with everyone wearing masks may in fact be just what everyone needs.

What This Means For You

Regardless of the pandemic, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, especially in the wake of giving birth, seek help. Don’t wait, and don’t let social distancing get in the way of getting the help you need. Reach out to a trusted healthcare provider immediately.

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Article Sources
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  1. Wu Y, Zhang C, Liu H, et al. Perinatal depressive and anxiety symptoms of pregnant women during the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak in China. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020; doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2020.05.009

  2. Berthelot N, Lemieux R, Garon-bissonnette J, Drouin-maziade C, Martel É, Maziade M. Uptrend in distress and psychiatric symptomatology in pregnant women during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2020;99(7):848-855. doi:10.1111/aogs.13925

  3. MedlinePlus. Postpartum depression screening. Updated February 26, 2020.