Visits for postpartum mental health treatment spiked 30% during the pandemic, according to a study of more than 137,000 women in Ontario published Monday, adding to the many other emerging mental health effects of the pandemic.
Visits for anxiety and depressive disorders by new mothers were as much as 39% higher from March to November 2020 compared to pre-pandemic levels, while visits for substance use disorders also rose, according to a study of more than 137,000 postpartum women in Ontario published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Increases in less-densely populated portions of the province saw returns to pre-pandemic levels of postpartum mental health visits beginning in the summer, which may be because fewer Covid-19 cases allowed in-person school, in-person dining and other hallmarks of normalcy.
The smaller increases in mental health visits among low-income women may be because they can’t take time off of work or don’t have wifi and a phone that can handle telehealth appointments, said Dr. Simone Vigod, lead author of the study and head of psychiatry at the University of Toronto-affiliated Women’s College Hospital.
“Postpartum mental health issues are very treatable,” but without access to healthcare they can become a long-term problem affecting a woman’s wellbeing, said Vigod. Postpartum anxiety and depression has also been linked to social and emotional problems for children, she said. “There can be long-term implications across generations.”
The pandemic shut down many of the social supports that new parents rely on, including help from family, parent groups and public health nurses, said Vigod. Mental health problems have broadly increased during the pandemic in the U.S. as well. In 2019, slightly more than one in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders to the CDC. In 2020, the agency’s surveys regularly found more than one-quarter of adults said they had symptoms of anxiety or depression—and sometimes more than one in three adults said they were struggling with those issues.
Postpartum mental illness during the COVID-19 pandemic (Canadian Medical Association Journal)
Moms Are Not Okay: Pandemic Triples Anxiety And Depression Symptoms In New Mothers (Forbes)