Mental health visits for new moms increased by 30% during COVID-19 pandemic, study finds – National
Toronto mom Heather Eldebs knew something was wrong after giving birth to son Joey five and a half years ago.
“I lost my appetite and couldn’t sleep and just didn’t see any joy in life,” said the 42-year-old bank employee and part-time fitness instructor.
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Eldebs was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and depression – something she would also struggle with following the birth of her second child, daughter Allison, three years later.
“It was quite traumatic .. even to the point where we wondered whether or not we wanted to have more children, because it was a really, really difficult time,” she told Global News.
In Canada, almost a quarter of mothers who have recently given birth reported feelings consistent with postpartum depression or anxiety disorder, according to a Statistics Canada 2019 survey.
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated mental health issues for new mothers.
New study published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ) showed on Monday that between March and November 2020, mental health visits during the postpartum period – the first year after birth – to family physicians and psychiatrists were 30% higher than before the birth. pandemic.
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Researchers at Women’s College Hospital and ICES, a nonprofit research institute based in Toronto, Ont., Examined data from more than 137,600 eligible postpartum people in Ontario.
They found that increases over expected visitation rates were greater in the first three months after childbirth compared to 91 to 365 days from the date of delivery.
“It’s quite concerning for us because it really suggests that people aren’t just struggling there, they’re suffering from issues that we really need to provide treatment for,” said Dr Simone Vigod, psychiatrist at Women’s College Hospital and lead author of the study.
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A lack of social support amid COVID-19-related restrictions and the stress of the pandemic have largely contributed to more women seeking mental health help, said Vigod, who is also a scientist at the ‘ICES.
Many were unable to attend breastfeeding clinics, peer support groups and meet new parents, or be visited by public health nurses during times of lockdown, she added. .
Speaking about his own past experience with postpartum depression, Eldebs said, “It’s a particularly difficult time to go through something like this.”
Meanwhile, the way people sought medical assistance in the last year has also changed, with virtual visits becoming the norm.
As of March 2020, 46% of postpartum mental health visits were virtual, rising to nearly 85% in April, up from just 3% of visits during the pre-pandemic period, the CMAJ study showed.
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Despite the challenges, the flexibility of obtaining virtual care from the comfort of home early in maternity has been a “silver lining” for the COVID-19 pandemic, Vigod said.
But she was concerned that women living in low-income neighborhoods would have less increase in their visitation rates than those in higher-income neighborhoods.
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Two and a half years after the birth of her youngest child, Eldebs says she has come out of a deep depression, but is still taking a low dose of medication.
Looking back, she now wishes there was greater awareness of postpartum anxiety during her prenatal days.
Either during early pregnancy check-ups or during prenatal classes, Eldebs said there needs to be “real awareness and acceptance of knowledge transfer” to help women cope better.
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According to Vigod, Canada continues to lag behind in being able to offer affordable and accessible therapy for postpartum depressive disorder.
She said there are also gaps in terms of access to specialist doctor care regarding which drugs to use, stressing that more work needs to be done.
“The most important thing I would like to see is that pregnant and postpartum women have a place to go where someone can help them say, ‘OK, this is what is happening with you. , that’s the kind of care you need, and we know where you can get it and we can get it for you as soon as possible ”.
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