Postpartum and the Pandemic, By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

Postpartum and the Pandemic, By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

Pregnancy and childbirth can be challenging experiences at any time. But amidst a global pandemic, many of the typical difficulties have been escalated. Many unknowns still linger regarding the potential impact COVID-19 can have during pregnancy as well as the virus’ potential impact on young children, making this an incredibly stressful time for new and expecting mothers in particular. 

Unfortunately, one recent finding has demonstrated a worsening of anxiety and depression in new mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study, from the University of Alberta, 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. 

Concerns about financial security, job stability and overall health weigh far more heavily on new and expecting parents now than ever before. Considering the pandemic’s widespread financial difficulties, the prospect of paying for all the expenses that come with a new baby can be incredibly daunting. 

The rate of symptoms of depression in
new mothers amid the pandemic was
nearly three times the rate
of new mothers’ pre-pandemic.

Added stress can also come from the precautionary measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19, especially social distancing. These measures can mean that extended family, grandparents particularly, may not be able to provide the support (such as childcare) for the new parents as they might normally. This can add to the parents’ stress and is also an immensely frustrating and disheartening reality for the grandparents and other family members who may not be able to see the new baby safely. Additionally, concern about potential exposure to the virus in public settings, especially during essential doctor visits for the newborn, aggravates anxiety symptoms.

Though the pandemic has heightened depression and anxiety rates for mothers, postpartum depression has been on the rise for many years. Postpartum depression is a mental health condition following childbirth in which a new mother experiences symptoms of depression that do not go away, as do the traditional “baby blues.” Some symptoms include feeling disconnected from the baby, a lack of motivation, restlessness and overwhelming feelings of sadness.

Statistics point to a notable disparity in the age of the mother. Teenagers face the most risk, with teenage mothers twice as likely to develop postpartum depression. Teenage mothers also suffer from higher suicidal ideation rates and are more likely to suffer from PTSD due to a higher likelihood of exposure to traumatic events. 

Racial disparities play a role in both maternal mental health and teenage pregnancy. Researchers have noted that Black mothers suffer from postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders at a higher rate than white mothers. Additionally, though rates of teenage pregnancies have been decreasing across races, the pregnancy rate among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black teenagers is more than twice that of non-Hispanic white teenagers. Given the connection between postpartum depression and teenage pregnancies, intersecting racial disparities can create an incredibly vulnerable new mothers’ population. COVID-19 has only added to this vulnerability, with the virus disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minority groups. 

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center has two programs that address postpartum depression. One is called Good Beginnings for Babies, which seeks to help pregnant and parenting teens in a variety of areas to combat these vulnerabilities. Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust, director of the program, explains, “The goal is to reduce the isolation of young parents in the early years of their child’s development and increase the community’s sense of responsibility for young families, by building a community of young parents who support one another.” This support is crucial in preventing adverse mental health conditions for teenage mothers. 

Good Beginnings for Babies also provides screening for maternal depression and other perinatal mood disorders, as well as treatment or referrals for mental health care. 

The other program is the Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program. It provides rapid response and diagnosis for mothers of all ages suffering from postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders

Good Beginnings for Babies is located at Leeds Place – Serving Young People, our office in Westbury. For more information, contact us at info@northshorechildguidance.org or (516) 626-1971. 

The Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program is located at our Marks Family Right from the Start 0-3+ Center in Manhasset. Call 516) 484-3174, ext. 415.