The Pandemic Elevates Mental Health Symptoms in Pregnant and Postpartum Women  

mental health
Credit: Harvard Business Review

Across the globe, Covid-19 is badly influencing individuals of every age group. Thus, the Harvard School of Public Health study researched pregnant and postpartum women. Its findings show Covid19 is influencing to a great extent on the mental health of these women. The study reported an elevation of post-traumatic stress, loneliness, anxiety, and depression in these women.

Covid19 Playing With Your Mind

The study took place between May and June 2020, which surveyed women from 64 countries by sending an anonymous online survey.  Approximately 7,000 pregnant and postpartum women received the survey.

The results showed 53% of these women were going through loneliness, 43% incline to post-traumatic stress, and 31% from anxiety or depression. The study also concluded that 86% of the respondents were fearful of catching the disease of coronavirus. The prevailing concerns of these women were regarding their pregnancy and delivery.

Karestan C. Koenen, a lead author of the study, said in his interview that during pregnancy, women are particularly vulnerable to alterations in healthcare delivery due to pandemics.

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The professor of psychiatric epidemiology at HSPH, Karestan C. Koenen, states that to no surprise, you frequently visit the doctor during pregnancy, no matter if your pregnancy is normal or full of complications. Koenen says, due to social distancing and implementation of lockdowns, pregnant women avoided seeing their physicians. Infrequent visits to the physician increase the risk of complications in their pregnancy.

News updates Trigger Your Stress Receptors

The participants of the survey reported an elevation in suffering in comparison to both women who were pregnant before the outbreak of coronavirus and the general population.

The study showed that the more a person stresses over the updates about covid19 news, the worse their mental health will be.

Archana Basu, the first author of the study, is a research scientist in epidemiology at HSPH. Bau said that people who were more prone to check the news about the pandemic crisis showed two folds in the odds of increased post-traumatic stress and depression.

According to Basu, mental health is badly influenced by excessive information seeking. The findings of the survey show consistency in detrimental mental health symptoms in pregnant and postpartum women all around the world.  The consistency in the elevation of mental health symptoms was surprising for the scientists.

Koenen says that it’s unusual to discover the same thing happening at the same time in different parts of the world.

Cindy H. Liu, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, was not involved in the study. Liu says that there is a lack of information about the influence of vaccines on the mental health of pregnant women. She suggested researching the future about the impact of introducing the vaccine against Covid19 on mental health.

Evaluation of Mental Health

Sonia Hernández-Díaz, professor of epidemiology and co-author of the study, says that she believes in doing follow-up research to the study conducted in the summer of 2020. The follow-up research will help in determining the effect of the new factors on mental health during the prevailing pandemic.

According to Hernández-Díaz, the current phase of the pandemic has altered the sources of potential depression and concerns; therefore, it would be fruitful to conduct a similar survey now.

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Bizu Gelaya, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at HSPH, says that he is hoping the researchers won’t stop prioritizing the study of mental health with the end of the pandemic.

He says that it is good that people are concerned about mental health during the outbreak of covid19, and this attention should not decline once the pandemic is over. Gelaya looks forward to addressing the perinatal mental health problems after the pandemic if mental health remains a concern beyond the pandemic.

Adeena Tariq Lari
The author is a graduate of dental surgery from the Dow University Health Sciences, Karachi. She has an academic background in content writing as well as English literature, giving her an edge in the field. Adeena is always curious about physical and mental health. She is always passionate about research and delivering high-quality reliable content to users.