Pregnancy and COVID-19: “It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This”

Pregnancy and COVID-19: “It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This”

By Kelly King, MD

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

This is a sentiment that I have heard from many women recently. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on pregnant and postpartum women, an already vulnerable population when it comes to mental health concerns. The rate of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) is estimated to be 15-20% of pregnant and postpartum women – and that’s in non-pandemic times. (1)

A woman may have a particular vision about what she wants her pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum experience to look like. While visions can change and plans can go awry, I do not believe anyone could have predicted the new challenges that would come with pregnancy and childbirth in 2020. We know that support is crucial during such a transitional time. So, what does it mean when you are limited in the number of people you can have in the hospital during delivery? What does it mean when your loved ones are unable to visit after you give birth because of potential health risks? Missed baby showers, gender reveal parties; the list goes on. Not to mention the heightened worries about her own health, her partner’s health, and her baby’s health. This is a universal experience for pregnant women right now.

As a result, we have understandably observed a rise in mental health concerns in pregnant and postpartum women since the start of the pandemic. Recent studies have shown that pregnant and postpartum women during the COVID-19 pandemic reported a significantly higher level of depressive and anxiety symptoms compared to women before the pandemic.(2,3)

Early recognition and intervention is crucial. One of the things we can do is alert women for the signs and symptoms to watch out for. Depression does not always look like sadness. It could be heightened irritability, a sense of numbness or detachment, difficulty bonding with her baby, or changes in aspects of functioning like sleep or appetite. A woman dealing with peripartum anxiety may have excessive fear or worry, intrusive unwanted thoughts that she has difficulty controlling, difficulty sleeping when her baby sleeps, or panic attacks. And this is certainly not an exhaustive list. PMADs can present in a variety of different ways, and it is important that we remain vigilant in looking for them.

Here at the Ross Center, we can help. We have specialists trained in the diagnosis and treatment of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders who can help you understand what you are experiencing and work with you to develop a treatment plan to restore your well-being. You do not have to go through this alone. Contact Us if you need help processing difficult emotions during this precious time.

 

Citations:

  1. https://www.postpartum.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/PSI-PMD-FACT-SHEET-2015.pdf
  2. Berthelot N, Lemieux R, Garon-Bissonnette J, Drouin-Maziade C, Martel É, Maziade M. Uptrend in distress and psychiatric symptomatology in pregnant women during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2020;99(7):848-855. doi:10.1111/aogs.13925
  3. Davenport MH, Meyer S, Meah VL, Strynadka MC and Khurana R (2020) Moms Are Not OK: COVID-19 and Maternal Mental Health. Front. Glob. Womens Health 1:1. doi: 10.3389/fgwh.2020.00001