The Pandemic Has Led To An Increase In Post-Natal Depression Amongst New Mums - Women's Health

The Pandemic Has Led To An Increase In Post-Natal Depression Amongst New Mums

Studies suggest up to 50 per cent of pregnant new mothers are experiencing high levels of depression and anxiety.

For new mums who gave birth during Covid, the experience was one few could have ever anticipated. From check-ups done mostly alone to delivery rooms devoid of partners or family support, pregnancy saw many become isolated as they complied with restrictions across numerous hospitals. As the ABC reported back in July of this year, it left many partners feeling helpless and robbed of one of life’s most precious moments as they were unable to visit postnatal wards, while midwives have felt dismayed by the lack of support, fearing the impact such restrictions will have on mothers both during pregnancy and after. 

While lockdown restrictions might now be lifting across Australia, the impact of this period on new mothers continues to be felt. A number of studies have since revealed that this intense isolation and the removal of normal support groups and social lifelines during the pandemic has left many mothers reeling, with devastating impacts on maternal mental health. According to the Babies in Lockdown report, which captured the experiences of over 5,000 families in the UK, seven in 10 found their ability to cope with their pregnancy or baby had been impacted as a result of Covid-19. 

New mums were asked which three words best describe your mood over the past five days, with the common responses being “lonely,” “sad”, “anxious” and “stressed”. According to the report, almost two-thirds of parents shared significant concerns about their mental health. 

In an interview with Glamour, Professor Amy Brown, author of Covid Babies which looks at how pandemic health measures came to undermine pregnancy, birth and early parenting, levels of depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after birth have surged during this time. “Some studies are suggesting up to 50 per cent or more of pregnant and new mothers are experiencing high levels of symptoms. We would usually expect this to be somewhere around 15-20 per cent,” says Brown. 

Compounding the issue was the guilt and shame surrounding mums during this time, as many believed they weren’t able to discuss their problems or struggles at home due to the context we found ourselves living in. With healthcare workers on the frontline doing all they could to combat Covid-19 and countless other families experiencing devastating loss as a result of the pandemic, mums felt incredible guilt, essentially experiencing gaslighting for their emotions when others ‘had it worse’. 

With no outlet to express their emotions and lack of support, a number of new mums overlooked their own needs and feelings in an effort to simply continue forward. Things like sleep, nutrition and hydration – all essential for optimal functioning, particularly as a parent – went out the window for many. As Brown stresses, aside from ensuring new mums are meeting their own basic needs and opening up about their feelings, we also need to acknowledge the turmoil they’ve been through. It’s important for us all to acknowledge that having a baby in the pandemic was an ordeal few can ever know. “Experiences of birth, breastfeeding and caring for babies can last a long time and we must recognise the challenges and trauma that many new parents have experienced. Pretending it didn’t matter or suggesting that it wasn’t traumatic in the grand scheme of the pandemic makes it so much worse,” she tells the publication. 

“Parents need that validation that many did have a really distressing time and it’s ok to feel that.”

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