Postpartum Depression and COVID-19

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Postpartum Depression and COVID-19  

Jim Windell

           Some research that has taken place during the pandemic found that breastfeeding support resources such as lactation consults were limited during early COVID. This limited availability of breastfeeding support may have increased distress or caused new mothers to switch to formula.

           Then, supply chain problems resulted in formula shortages. That stress on mothers could have also contributed to depression. However, previous studies suggest that breastfeeding may help to protect new mothers from postpartum depression. Breastfeeding, it is suggested, seems to help minimize the severity of depressive symptoms and improve recovery time.

          In general, prior to the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that one in eight women experienced postpartum depression, and about five to seven percent experienced major depressive symptoms.

          But did this rate of depression in mothers change during the COVID-19 pandemic?

          The answer to that, according to new research from the University of Michigan, is yes. A new research report from the University of Michigan School of Nursing indicates that depression in new mothers rose considerably during the pandemic.

           The study that recently appeared in BMC Research Notes comes from a larger study called "COVID-19 MAMAS (Maternal Attachment, Mood, Ability, and Support)," which led to several papers about pregnancy and postpartum experiences during COVID. For this particular paper, researchers collected survey data between February and July 2020 from 670 U.S. postpartum patients who completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale online and provided demographic information.

           Furthermore, the research found that:

  • Moms who fed infants formula had 92% greater odds of screening positive for postpartum depression and were 73% more likely to screen positive for major depressive symptoms, compared to those who breastfed or bottle-fed with their own human milk.
  • Moms with infants in neonatal intensive care units had 74% greater odds of screening positive, and each one-week increase in weeks postpartum increased the odds of screening positive by four percent.
  • Moms worried about contracting COVID-19 had 71% greater odds of screening positive for postpartum depression.

           Lead author Clayton Shuman, a U. of M. assistant professor of nursing, says he was surprised by how many women screened positive for depression and major depression.

           “We also found that almost one in five participants who screened positive for postpartum depression reported having thoughts of harming themselves,” Shuman said. “This is very concerning given that prior to the pandemic, Dr. Lindsay Admon and colleagues from U. of M. found the rate of suicidality among prenatal and postpartum patients is on the rise in the U.S.”

           This increase highlights the need to identify depressive symptoms in postpartum patients, but screening is only a first step, Shuman added.

           “Treatment is pivotal to recovery,” Shuman said. “Resources and education about postpartum depression must be better disseminated and implemented. These resources should be shared with the general public to reduce stigma and shared with those who provide social and emotional support to postpartum patients, such as partners and family members.”

           To read the original article, find it with this reference:

          Clayton J. Shuman, Alex F. Peahl, Neha Pareddy, Mikayla E. Morgan, Jolyna Chiangong, Philip T. Veliz, Vanessa K. Dalton. (2022). Postpartum depression and associated risk factors during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Research Notes, 15 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13104-022-05991-8


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