Does COVID-19 affect maternal mental health?

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

The outbreak of #COVID-19 disease has caused, worldwide, a lot of fear, worry, and stress. A few studies have reported a higher prevalence of mental health problems among women compared to men during the lockdown period. Both pregnant women and new mothers, thinking of that, could certainly be more vulnerable.

Although pregnancy is commonly believed to be a joyous time for most women, some of them experience a range of negative emotions during pregnancy leading to anxiety and depression. Conditions such as extreme stress, emergency, conflict situations, and natural disasters can inflate the risks of perinatal mental health morbidity. Mental health problems are associated with short-term and long-term risks for the affected mothers' overall health and functioning, as well as their children's physical, cognitive and psychological development. Therefore, it is plausible that pregnant women are vulnerable to mental ill-health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The risk may be related to concerns regarding the wellbeing of the unborn child, but aggravated by unintended consequences of preventive measures, such as quarantine, physical distancing, home isolation, remote consultations with healthcare professionals, and inability to obtain the expected level of support and care prenatally as well as during the intrapartum and postnatal periods.


The World Health Organization has come up with some guidelines in managing COVID-19 during #pregnancy and delivery, but the recommendations vary due to lack of solid evidence. Initial data from China suggested no increased risk of infection and morbidity among pregnant women compared to the general population. But pregnant women may be at risk of having more severe disease while preterm deliveries are common. Maternal and neonatal mortalities have also been reported. Furthermore, the risk of miscarriage associated with COVID-19 remains unclear. These uncertainties are likely to add to psychological stress and may even lead to increased rates of pregnancy terminations.

Some women during the COVID-19 pandemic chose to deliver at home. This could create a problem as the availability of qualified birth attendants and midwives to support home deliveries is limited. Thus, this choice, may lead to increased maternal and neonatal complications.

Although transmission of SARS-COV-2 through breast milk is unlikely, some infected women may choose not to breast-feed temporarily to avoid direct contact with the newborn and reduce the risk of neonatal infection. However, such practices and early cessation of breastfeeding may contribute to poor health among mothers and infants.

We can safely speculate that pregnant women are at increased risk of developing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Hence, it is important to proactively develop appropriate strategies to alleviate stress by screening, identifying and managing perinatal mental health disorders during the pandemic without any delay.

Source: Maternal mental health in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic
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