Pregnant and postpartum women reported high levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a worldwide survey.
Such high levels of distress may have potential implications for women and for foetal and child health and development, said researchers from Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US.
"We expected to see an increase in the proportion of pregnant and postpartum women reporting mental health distress, as they are likely to be worried or have questions about their babies' health and development, in addition to their own or their family's health," said Karestan Koenen, Professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the varsity.
"However, the number of women who had significantly elevated symptoms was much larger than what had previously been published during the pandemic," Koenen added.
To gauge the mental health of pregnant and postpartum women during the pandemic, the team conducted an anonymous, online, cross-sectional survey of women in 64 countries between May 26, 2020 and June 13, 2020.The study is published online in the journal PLOS ONE. To gauge the mental health of pregnant and postpartum women during the pandemic, the team conducted an anonymous, online, cross-sectional survey of women in 64 countries between May 26, 2020 and June 13, 2020.
Of the 6,894 participants, substantial proportions of women scored at or above the cutoffs in widely-used psychological screening tools for elevated levels of anxiety/depression (31 per cent), loneliness (53 per cent), and post-traumatic stress in relation to Covid-19 (43 per cent), despite the fact that only 117 women (2 per cent) had been diagnosed with Covid-19 and 510 (7 per cent) had been in contact with someone with Covid-19.
The levels of psychiatric distress were significantly higher than previously published data on such distress in the general population during the pandemic and among pregnant and postpartum women before the pandemic.
Seeking information about the pandemic five or more times a day from any source (e.g., social media, news, or word-of-mouth) was associated with more than twice the odds of elevated post-traumatic stress in relation to Covid-19 and anxiety/depression.
Worries about children and childcare and economic worries were also important factors in women's mental health.