There is no denying that 2020 has changed the landscape of our society and our individual experiences daily. As a society, we have acknowledged the impact that COVID-19 has had on various populations like 2020 graduates and frontline workers. Seniors who graduated in 2020 have missed out on senior prom, a formal commencement ceremony, and other milestones that they would have otherwise experienced. Frontline workers have worked tirelessly day in and day out to care for the sick. Another population who experienced significant challenges and stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic is women who were pregnant during COVID and gave birth during the pandemic.
A Pregnancy Like No Other
Imagine you find out you are pregnant and begin to make plans for your baby shower and birth. You start basking in the excitement of all of the other expectations that come with carrying a child. You begin to pick out the colors for your baby shower gender reveal party, and you begin to envision your family members meeting your baby for the first time. But these expectations only last for a short time because, soon, COVID emerges. With it comes feelings of fear, helplessness, and grief in the loss of future expectations for your pregnancy and your baby’s birth.
Across the world, estimates reveal that 10% of pregnant women and 13% of postpartum women (women who have recently given birth) experience a mental health disorder, the most common being depression. Many factors can contribute to developing depression and other mental health disorders like the family history of mental illness, environmental stress, and trauma. COVID has caused anxiety for most of us, especially women who were pregnant and gave birth during the pandemic. Pregnant and postpartum women in 2020 experienced an increase in stress and other unique challenges because of the pandemic.
Many women have had to cancel baby showers and other pregnancy milestones that are a source of excitement, love, and encouragement for expectant mothers. Given hospital restrictions, many women who gave birth during the pandemic had to choose only one person to accompany them in the delivery room. After delivery, family and friends may have had to keep their distance and been unable to visit the newborn baby due to social distance guidelines and safety precautions. Pregnant and postpartum women also have endured feelings of fear and uncertainty over themselves and their baby potentially catching COVID.
Pregnancy and a Pandemic
A recent study of 135 pregnant and postpartum women who were asked a series of questions before and during COVID found that depression and anxiety symptoms increased in pregnant and postpartum women during COVID. Several factors may have played a role in the increase in anxiety and depression in this population. These factors include:
- Feelings of loneliness due to social isolation
- Lack of interpersonal relationships and connectedness
- Economic challenges
- Lack of social support
- Grief over the loss of what they thought their pregnancy and postpartum experiences would be like
- Fear of contracting COVID while pregnant and fear of the baby catching COVID
Additional factors to keep in mind include:
- Pregnant women who contract COVID-19 are at an increased risk of developing critical illness when compared to non-pregnant women.
- Pregnant women who are COVID positive may be at risk for poor health outcomes, including pre-term birth.
While the pandemic isn’t over, hope has been instilled with the development of effective vaccines, loosening restrictions for social gatherings, and a deeper understanding of the virus. Women who were pregnant and recently postpartum in 2020 experienced a heightened amount of stress because of the virus uncertainties, social restrictions in place (including stay-at-home orders), and a yet unavailable vaccine. Pregnant and postpartum women in 2020 experienced unique challenges. If you are one of those women, know that you are not alone and that help is available.
We have all made it through a challenging and unprecedented time by leaning on one another. There is no shame in getting help. If you are a pregnant or postpartum mom struggling with mental or physical health, there is hope, and support is available. Because of COVID-19, support has never been more accessible through the advancements of telehealth and teletherapy.
Talk to your doctor or medical professional if experiencing depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems. Your doctor can provide you with a referral to a mental health professional where you can receive support in the form of individual therapy, support groups, and medication. If looking to save money on your prescription medication or learn more about your medications, WellRx can help. To learn more about your medications and save money on your prescription, download the free prescription savings card.
Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.