Background: The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to influence psychological health of pregnant and postpartum women.
Methods: We conducted a non-concurrent cross-sectional study among 1145 women living in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, 541 pregnant and 604 postpartum women. We measured psychological health with the Whooley questions, Generalized Anxiety Disorder 2-item (GAD-2) and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and compared the scores of pregnant and postpartum women before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Results: No differences were observed in the Whooley, GAD-2 or EPDS scores among pregnant women. The postpartum total GAD-2 scores before vs during the pandemic showed significant differences. Controlling for confounders, we observed a small main positive effect of having an infant during time of COVID-19 (F(1.13) = 5.06, p.025, d.27). The effect was significantly larger for women with (a history of) perinatal psychological problems (F(1.12) = 51.44, p < .001, d.82). Emotional support was significantly related to GAD-2 scores of postpartum women during the pandemic (F(1.90) = 35.54, p < .001). Postpartum women reported significant higher effects of the pandemic on their behavior compared to pregnant women (p.034).
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have a positive effect on postpartum women during the first year postpartum, in particular for women with (a history of) perinatal psychological problems and for those women who experienced emotional support. The findings suggest that less external stimuli caused by lockdown restrictions might have a positive effect on postpartum women’s emotional wellbeing. The sample consisted of white, educated women in a relationship and information regarding the extent of exposure to adverse COVID-19 consequences was lacking. We relied on self-selection and self-report. The postpartum pandemic sample was small.
Kuipers, Y. (2022, May). Psychological health of pregnant and postpartum women before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Presented at Nordic Midwifery Congress (NJF), Helsinki