Study finds increase in reporting of postpartum depressive symptoms
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Across the country, more women experienced postpartum depressive symptoms during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a study from the University of Virginia Health System, new mothers in Virginia reported a more than five percent increase in such symptoms.
The study also found that states with larger increases in depressive symptoms tended to have fewer deaths from COVID and lower unemployment rates among women.
Doctors at UVA teamed up with the smartphone application Flo and John Hopkins University to better understand the impact of the pandemic on postpartum depression.
The app asks new moms about their symptoms before, during and after pregnancy.
That information was then compared to COVID-19 case and death data and data on unemployment from the government between March 2020 and March 2021
Data shows that national rates of postpartum depression went up by nearly half a percentage point during the first year of the pandemic, from 6.5 percent to 6.9 percent.
"In situations where we have something terrible happen like a pandemic, it probably points to the fact that we should be providing new mothers more support, not less, and we should also be screening mothers for depression and treating them when it's appropriate," said Dr. Jennifer Payne, the director of the Reproductive Psychiatry Research Program at the UVA School of Medicine.
The study found women in states with lower unemployment rates saw higher rates of exhaustion and women in states with less access to supportive systems saw higher rates of postpartum depressive symptoms.
In 36 states, there was an increase in reported postpartum depressive symptoms, while seven saw a decrease. The rest stayed the same.
“Because postpartum depression not only has deleterious effects on the mother but also on the child, it’s important that we identify risk factors as well as protective factors,” Payne said. “The pandemic clearly increased the risk for postpartum depression symptoms.”
These findings have been published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.