COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the effects of postpartum depression and anxiety

Researchers say the measures implemented to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus resulted in a decline of physical and mental health among women in their perinatal period.

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Postpartum depression affects one in seven women, triggering symptoms such as depression and anxiety. With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting many across the world, women are struggling more, as rates of maternal depression surged as a result of the pandemic, according to new research in Frontiers in Global Women’s Health.

Researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada say that the measures implemented to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus, like social distancing and lockdown isolation, resulted in a decline of physical and mental health, particularly among women in their perinatal period.

For the study, researchers administered surveys to 900 female participants, more than half of which were pregnant and a portion who recently gave birth. Their psychological well-being was probed before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

The study took place from April 14th to May 8th, 2020.

Based on their responses, the rate of moderate to high levels of anxiety among the participants increased from 29 percent before the pandemic to 72 percent during the rise of confirmed cases.

Moreover, the lockdown measures also led to decreased physical activity, a known treatment intervention for reducing depressive symptoms.

“This rapid response survey identifies a substantial increase in the likelihood of maternal depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the findings state.

“This highlights the strong need for heightened assessment and treatment of maternal mental health. However, these data also suggest that physical activity, which has previously been shown to reduce depression and depressive symptoms in pregnancy, may be associated with better mental health during the pandemic.”

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