Pregnant women depression: When pregnant women undergo depression, it is harmful to their baby. It can cause problems such as premature birth. Expecting mothers are prone to adverse COVID-19 related events as well.
A Stanford University study reveals that the risk of pregnant women going through depression has almost doubled after the COVID-19 pandemic struck. It urges policymakers and clinicians to offer additional support to would-be mothers during the pandemic.
Pregnant women depression: What scientists found
Scientists inspected the latent structure of stress and adversity identified with the COVID-19 pandemic among pregnant women. During March-May 2020, 725 pregnant women in San Francisco Bay Area were surveyed in the study. In the pre-pandemic group, one in four women showed signs of possible depression. Whereas, in the post-pandemic group, the figure escalated to more than half of the women surveyed.
What did the study find?
The study found that women most prone to symptoms of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic were already facing challenges due to socioeconomic inequality. This group of women also included those who had pre-existing poor physical health and histories of mental disorders.
Pregnant women depression: listen to Lucy King
The lead author of the study, Lucy King, is a graduate from Stanford Neurodevelopment, Affect and Psychopathology Laboratory (SNAP Lab). She said that they expected that pregnant women would have more difficulty when the pandemic started. What surprised them was the high rate of potential depression the pandemic-affected group was going through. King added that from the perspective of public policy, the findings support the broad-based screenings to identify pregnant women at the risk of depression.
“These women and their infant could benefit from counseling, improved access to available resources and other interventions. These forms of assistance could help women partially recover from the current pandemic and looking ahead-better cope in a similar kind of stressful environment imposed by possible disease outbreaks,” said King.
She further said that the findings indicate there may be specific groups of women who should be targeted to receive special attention in terms of support.
Senior author and SNAP Lab Director Ian Gotlib said that the adverse effects of maternal stress on infants are a form of collateral damage caused by COVID-19. It impacts those whom the virus never actually infected. He added that these effects are unlikely to end even after the pandemic ends. This is because depression in pregnancy may affect the growing foetus and the relationship between the mother and the newborn baby.
Gotlib said that studies like this help to highlight pregnancy in particular as a critical period to make sure that women have support. The support is not just to get them through their pregnancy but help them with their health in future as well as the health and development of their children.