More women struggling with postpartum depression during COVID-19 pandemic

In a startling trend, BC Women’s Hospital is reporting more women are struggling with postpartum depression compared to before the pandemic.

Usually, the BC Reproductive Mental Health Program at BC Women’s Hospital sees around 5,000 patients a year. But since the pandemic, they’re seeing about 6,000 patients, about an 20 per cent increase.

Dr. Karen Rivera is with BC Women’s Hospital, and says part of the reason we’re seeing this increase is isolation and additional stress and the ongoing pandemic has only amplified these experiences for women.

“Factors include things like social isolation, a lack of connectivity with others due to being more isolated from others in the pandemic, a lack of being able to connect with in-person resources, a lack of personal support such as some challenges with childcare. Because of the pandemic, employment stressors or job loss, financial stressors or strain, possible increase in a relationship conflict, having older children in the home during the pandemic, especially during that time when schools were closed, caused increased stress for women. As well as increased responsibilities on parents, especially for mothers needing to do things like homeschool … In addition to that, there has been also the fear of COVID and worrying about one’s health and the health of a baby.”

While people struggling with their mental health already face stigmas, Rivera says those challenges are increased for women who are experiencing pregnancy and postpartum.

“When people think about these times in their life, people think, ‘Oh, yes, these are times where you should be so happy and so joyful,'” she explains. “But [some mothers are] scared to voice it for fear of being judged or being thought of as a bad mom.”

In addition to depressed feelings, Rivera says postpartum depression can impact sleep, appetite, concentration, energy levels, and abilities for mothers to bond with their baby.

Rivera stresses those who feel stressed or anxious should reach out for help.

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