Anxiety and depression increasing among new moms during COVID, study says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A new study shows feelings of anxiety and depression have increased among new and expecting mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Alberta surveyed 900 mothers and found that 40 percent reported having symptoms of depression compared to 15 percent before the pandemic. Seventy-two percent reported feeling moderate to high anxiety compared to 29 percent pre-COVID.

Doctors site changes in social interaction, decreases in physical activity, and fear of the unknown as contributors to mental health issues among new mothers.

"We have definitely noticed that there's a higher level of stress in many of our patients that are struggling with stressors related to COVID, whether it's taking care of their older children, feeling cooped up in the home, or having increased anxiety in general," said Dr. Karen Horst, a psychiatrist at The Women's Place - Center for Reproductive Psychiatry at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women.

In some cases, doctors said anxiety and depression can have physical impacts on both the mom and baby, but the good news is that it is rare.

"So I don't want people to add this to reasons to be anxious," Horst said. "Again, there's a lot of protection in our system that protects the developing baby and a pregnancy from the external environment."

Doctors urge new moms to use resources, like online support groups. Exercise, connecting with nature, getting fresh air, and practicing self-forgiveness can also help in alleviating feelings of depression and anxiety.

"There's not this aspect of having support from play dates or having support for Mother's Day out programs. We just don't have access to that right now in a lot of areas, so getting some of that one-on-one face-to-face kind of support can be at least supplemented it with online support groups," said Lorissa Eichenberger, a clinician at the Center for Postpartum Family Health.

Eichenberger recommends that new moms keep a daily checklist to keep your mind in balance.

If your depression and anxiety becomes severe, you should contact your health care provider and seek mental health support.

If you know someone experiencing a mental health crisis, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Hotline is 1-800-662-HELP.

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