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Pandemic Tied to Mental Health Concerns in Pregnant, Postpartum Women

FRIDAY, April 30, 2021 -- During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, elevated posttraumatic stress, anxiety/depression, and loneliness were highly prevalent in pregnant and postpartum women across 64 countries, according to a study published online April 21 in PLOS ONE.

Archana Basu, Ph.D., from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues conducted an anonymous, online survey of pregnant and postpartum women in 64 countries (May 26 to June 13, 2020).

Based on 6,894 responses, the researchers found that substantial proportions of women scored at or above the cutoffs for elevated posttraumatic stress (43 percent), anxiety/depression (31 percent), and loneliness (53 percent). Adjusted models revealed an association between pandemic-related information seeking from any source (e.g., social media, news, talking to others) five or more times per day and double the odds of elevated posttraumatic stress and anxiety/depression. The vast majority of women (86 percent) reported being somewhat or very worried about COVID-19, including worries related to pregnancy and delivery such as family being unable to visit after delivery (59 percent), the baby contracting COVID-19 (59 percent), lack of a support person during delivery (55 percent), and COVID-19 causing changes to the delivery plan (41 percent).

"Public health campaigns and medical care systems need to explicitly address the impact of COVID-19-related stressors on mental health in perinatal women, as prevention of viral exposure itself does not mitigate the pandemic's mental health impact," the authors write.

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