Pregnant women vulnerable to mental health problems during pandemic

Women who are pregnant during the coronavirus pandemic may be at risk of developing serious mental health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Karestan Koenen of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a July 22, 2020 Psychology Today blog, Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology, described a global survey she conducted with colleagues on the mental health and well-being of pregnant and postpartum women during the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary results are “staggering,” she said. “Over 70% of women report clinically significant depression or anxiety, and over 40% screen positive for post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Top concerns among respondents include becoming ill with COVID-19, being unemployed and struggling financially, and suffering from pregnancy-related conditions that were not diagnosed in a timely fashion.

In addition, noted Koenen, physical distancing requirements mean that women face giving birth without a partner or loved one, restrictions on hospital recovery times, and questions about whether it’s safe for parents and other family members to visit. And many of the support systems that pregnant women and new mothers relied on before the pandemic are no longer available.

Koenen advised pregnant and postpartum women to join a virtual community, where they can share their experience with other women globally and obtain evidence-based answers to their questions about their own and their baby’s health; educate themselves about mental health during pregnancy and talk to a professional or call a help line if they are suffering; and ask friends and family members for help.

Read the Psychology Today article: Pregnant During A Pandemic?