In addition to causing an unprecedented pandemic with endless health issues, COVID-19 also caused a global halt to everything on the 11th of March 2020. People stopped going to offices, public transport stopped working, and people stopped leaving their houses. Instead they quarantined themselves from the rest of the world. However, babies did not get this global-halt memo and continued their birthing plan on schedule.
Many to-be mommies became new-mommies in the course of this pandemic. There were multiple layers of uncertainties involved in the whole process and they are still continuing. During the weeks leading up to the baby’s birth, basic questions that didn’t exist before started rising.
“Will the partner be allowed in the room?”
“Are the hospitals safe?”
“Who will watch the baby while the mommy recovers?”
After the baby’s birth, new questions and excessive stress followed, in an already COVID-19 induced stressful environment. Which is why it isn’t surprising that a recent study by the Frontiers In Global Women’s Health found that since the pandemic was announced, new-mommies are likely to experience more anxiety and depression than pre-pandemic mommies (1). Though we hope this divide won’t be too stark and that good health prevails above this unfortunate consequence of an even more resentful situation.
This study conducted a survey of 900 women who were in their first year after giving birth or were currently pregnant. By comparing pre-pandemic and post-pandemic levels of depression, the study concluded that 40.7% of mommies or mommies-to-be experienced depression during the pandemic. This amount is staggeringly high compared to 15% pre-pandemic levels of depression in women. A similar pattern was shown in anxiety studies. The survey suggested that 72% of women experienced moderate to high levels of anxiety during the pandemic as compared to 29% with pre-pandemic mommies.
Lisa Tremayne, Director and Lesley Nadel, a Social Worker at the Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) at Monmouth Medical Center gave their inputs regarding these numbers (2). They noted the calls to the Center had tripled since the beginning of the pandemic. In an attempt to explain the reason behind such increased calls, Tremayne noted that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders thrive and exaggerate when living in isolation and fear. Now, due to the pandemic, new mothers are caught in this impossible loop where they are scared to leave their homes and yet desperately need to break this chain of isolation. Usually, 1 in 7 women would suffer from depression and anxiety during their postnatal period. However, now, these numbers are much higher (3).
With numbers ranging so high, there is a need to make sure that the mother’s mental health is among the top priorities. This study suggested that staying physically fit and active throughout the pandemic is important and could definitely help overcome anxiety and the onset of depression (4). As important as it is to discuss this openly, it is equally crucial to reach out for individual or peer-to-peer therapy if needed. New mommies should indulge in guilt-free self-care and maintain a healthy eating and sleeping schedule. Another important aspect of overcoming depression and anxiety is being aware of the red flags that point towards their suffering. A difficult proposition, not just for someone in your position but for anyone affected by it. Admittedly, it all sounds as if there’s little respite for young mothers but it is so very crucial to continuously reaffirm the faith that PMAD treatment is a very effective tool.
To conclude, be in tune with your feelings as a new mom or mom-to-be before you dismiss them as simple mood-swings. Reach out to your partner or family and discuss the possibility of you suffering from depression or anxiety. Remember that these are simply prenatal psychiatric behaviors and not permanent in any way. If dealt with adequately, they can be easily overcome so that you can manage a healthy pregnancy or postpartum period despite the pandemic.