Pregnancy and childbirth are exciting times in a family’s life, filled with joy and awe. For some mothers, however, the situation is far more complex. While many women experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15 to 20 percent of women have more significant symptoms of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders or PMADs.
Fifteen to 20 percent of women have more significant symptoms of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders or PMADs.
At North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, we work with moms and pregnant women whose symptoms may include feelings of sadness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby and changes in eating and sleeping habits. Some also experience trouble concentrating, thoughts of hopelessness and even thoughts of harming the baby or herself.
Research shows that the pandemic has increased the incidents of PMADs, and also heightened symptoms. One study found that the rate of symptoms of depression in new mothers amid the pandemic was nearly three times the rate of new mothers’ symptoms pre-pandemic.
The reality is that, as with so much about the virus, there are still many unknowns as to the impact of COVID-19 during pregnancy and for babies and young children, which creates enormous stress. Being a new mother can be isolating under normal circumstances, but during the quarantine and social distancing protocols, the sense of isolation has been greatly magnified. Expectant and new parents are concerned about a host of issues, from financial and job stability to the health of their babies and themselves.
The pregnancy and birth experience, especially during the height of the pandemic, was anything but normal. Many pregnant women and new moms had to go to their doctor’s appointments by themselves, and if they got bad news, they had no one with them to lean on. Most had no baby showers, no visits from grandparents, no birthday parties—even an absence of partners in the hospital before, during and after the birth. They often had very little support from friends and relatives who typically help the new parents in the days after the baby comes home, for fear of catching or transmitting the virus.
Families who have school-aged children have had to struggle with the decision of whether or not to send them back to the classroom, where they may be exposed to the virus and bring it home to the family. Even though New York has improved in terms of COVID-19 numbers since the height of the pandemic, being cautious is still important, and we have no way of knowing what the next several months will bring. And the fact that all of us will be inside more will likely present significant challenges.
The good news is that North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center has been able to serve these moms and families during the pandemic through remote therapy, either by video or phone. In addition to individual and family therapy, the Guidance Center has continued to offer remote group counseling, so parents don’t feel so alone. Our psychiatrists are also seeing clients remotely, in the cases where medication is needed.
Through our Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program, the Guidance Center provides:
• Screening and assessments
• Individual, couple and family therapy
• Crisis intervention consultation
• Psychiatric evaluations and medication management, where needed
• Support groups
• Back-to-work family support
• Help with self-care
As one new mother told us, “You’ve been my lifeline during this time when I needed connection and reassurance and support.”
If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or other perinatal mood disorders, call the Guidance Center at 516-626-1971 and tell them you are seeking help for maternal depression. We are here for you.
Vanessa McMullan, LCSW, is supervisor at The Marks Family Right from the Start 0-3+ Center at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center. She also heads up the organization’s Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program. Call 516-626-1971 or visit www.northshorechildguidance.org to learn more.