Bringing a new baby into this world is undeniably exciting and beautiful, as well as emotional and life-changing.
Now add a global pandemic to the stressors and unknowns of parenting a newborn, and many new parents feel they have been left with a high-stakes, at times frightening, and even lonely task.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a clear impact on postpartum mental health. A New York Times review of multiple caregiver studies dubbed the stress of the pandemic as a “mental health crisis” for parents.
Understandably, this crisis has far from escaped new moms. Clinical reports of postpartum mood disorders have significantly spiked. The American Psychological Association reports pre-pandemic depression affected roughly 20% of pregnant and postpartum moms in the first year following childbirth, while anxiety affected roughly 13%. In the midst of the pandemic, two Canadian studies of 900 and 2,000 pregnant and postpartum moms found depression and moderate-to-high anxiety had astoundingly more than doubled those pre-pandemic numbers.
Understanding the struggle with postpartum mental health
The physical and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and early postpartum make women particularly vulnerable to mental health concerns. For this reason, many obstetric practices offer resources to support a new mom’s care.
Under normal circumstances, immediate family might attend prenatal appointments, be present at the baby’s birth, assist new parents with basic needs and share in the joys of the early baby milestones. Moms also would be encouraged to join parenting groups, socialize and have the chance to normalize their experience and receive support.
However, because of COVID-19 restrictions, many of these supports have been restricted, leaving moms with the stress of isolation on top of other very real pandemic concerns. For those new moms predisposed to mood disorders, the pandemic has created a perfect storm.
How can new moms manage?
It is important to be realistic about potential mental health strains as a new mom during the pandemic, and remember with proper support and care, the struggles can be overcome.