‘The social and physical isolation measures are taking a toll on the mental health of many of us,’ says researcher
The study, which was conducted by the University of Alberta in Canada, showed that the number of women reporting symptoms of maternal depression has increased to 41 per cent compared to 15 per cent before the outbreak began.
In addition, the number of women expediting moderate to high anxiety symptoms has risen from 29 per cent to 72 per cent.
The survey included 900 women, 520 of whom were pregnant and 380 of whom had given birth in the past 12 months, and each participant was asked about their depression and anxiety symptoms before and during the pandemic.
Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth are already at a greater risk of depression and anxiety, with around one in seven struggling with symptoms just after having a baby.
However, the researchers found that the global health crisis has exacerbated those struggles, with the likelihood of maternal depression and anxiety having “substantially increased”.
“The social and physical isolation measures that are critically needed to reduce the spread of the virus are taking a toll on the physical and mental health of many of us,” explains Dr Margie Davenport, co-author of the study.
“We know that experiencing depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period can have detrimental effects on the mental and physical health of both mother and baby that can persist for years.”
Dr Davenport added that effects of maternal depression can include premature delivery, reduced mother-baby bonding, and developmental delays in infants.
Annie Belasco, head of charity at the PANDAS Foundation – an organisation that gives support to people coping with pre and postnatal mental illnesses – added that while Covid-19 and lockdown do not “cause” postnatal depression, the circumstances and additional stress resulting from them could certainly contribute.
“We know that parents who have a diagnosis are particularly vulnerable during this time as their 'normal coping mechanisms' day to day are not able to take place,” she told Yahoo.
“Disturbance of routine, anxiety around the political and economical state have also contributed to parents with or without a diagnosis of perinatal mental illness that can create heightened anxiety and stress which can also magnify depression and low mood.”
According to the NHS, postnatal depression can affect women in different ways. It can start at any point in the first year after giving birth and may develop suddenly or gradually.
Some common symptoms include a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood, loss of interest in the world around you, lack of energy, trouble sleeping and feeling that you're unable to look after your baby.