"COVID-19 has caused a spike in post-traumatic stress among pregnant and postpartum women, internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy may help make treatment more accessible and less expensive for kids with social anxiety disorder, and other mental health news from spring 2021.
Pregnant Women Are More Vulnerable to Mental Health Problems Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
What’s New Pregnant and postpartum women in 64 countries, including the United States, have been experiencing a higher level of symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published in April 2021 in PLOS One. Factors that put women at the greatest risk were worrying about their children and medical care, as well as seeking information about the pandemic at least five times a day from any source, whether online searches or talking to others.
Research Details Nearly 6,900 pregnant and postpartum women from around the world participated in an online survey advertised on social media and online parenting forums. The survey found that 43 percent of women demonstrated higher levels of post-traumatic stress, 31 percent of women experienced more symptoms of depression and anxiety, and 53 percent of women had high levels of loneliness. Other key findings:
Why It Matters Psychological distress during pregnancy and after birth can negatively impact both mothers’ and their children’s health. “We know that maternal mental health has adverse effects on a range of outcomes for the offspring — for example, infant outcomes, mother-infant bonding, and later offspring physical and behavioral health,” says study author Karestan Koenen, PhD, a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, adding that helpful ways to care for mental health could include:
Mental health screening among pregnant and postpartum women is also key, but efforts shouldn’t stop there, says study author Archana Basu, PhD, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“In addition to screening and monitoring mental health symptoms, addressing potentially modifiable factors such as excessive information seeking and women’s worries about access to medical care and their children’s well-being, and developing strategies to target loneliness such as online support groups, should be part of intervention efforts for perinatal women,” says Dr. Basu."