Postpartum anxiety, depression increased during pandemic

Posted at 9:32 AM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 09:32:34-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Giving birth and taking care of a newborn is already an emotional time. Over the last year, therapists say anxiety and stress have only risen for new mothers.

Dr. Colby Cohen-Archer is a licensed psychologist and at her practice, The Postpartum Adjustment Center, she helps new parents navigate challenges that come after childbirth. Since the pandemic began, she's noticed the issues that are typically there are now heightened.

“Anxiety is often very high postpartum, but in the middle of a pandemic when there is the fear of any of the family members getting sick, the anxiety is just been higher,” said Cohen-Archer.

Cohen-Archer says there's also heightened anxiety for new moms who have had COVID-19 and worry about how it's affected their health. Also, there is anxiety over questioning daily decisions that normally wouldn't have been an issue, like if it's safe to take their child to the store.

“Now that has just that extra layer of, it's not just is somebody going to sneeze and we might get a cold. It's a COVID risk,” she said.

Another challenge moms are facing is loneliness from staying isolated for their and their baby's health. However, Cohen-Archer says isolation increases the chance of developing a postpartum mood disorder.

“For maybe women who wouldn't have struggled with postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, being so isolated from family, from friends... It just means that they are really alone with not only their baby, but often with other children at home and there's just not a lot of support,” she said

Cohen-Archer has also noticed how triggering the pandemic can be for moms who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She says intrusive thoughts that cause fear can be especially hard to handle during the postpartum period and the pandemic hasn't made it any easier.

“I've seen more of that since the pandemic because societally, we are worrying about our health more and safety more,” she said.

She says the feelings new moms have experienced during this time can lead to a negative cycle; Feelings of anxiety can make it hard to settle their baby and can also lead to tension in the household.

“That has a feedback loop of a new mom sees herself behaving that way and says, 'This isn't how I wanted to parent. This isn't the kind of partner I want to be.' But the stress is still there. The lack of support is still there and it just sort of snowballs,” said Cohen-Archer.

She says if you're experiencing these feelings, you're not alone. Her advice is to find ways to safely connect with other parents, like through social media groups, or reach out to friends and family for support. Also, with technology advancing during a time of physical distancing, she says help is more accessible than ever.

“If you really feel like… you don't feel like yourself. If you're not able to function and do what you need to do for yourself and your children every day, it's time to reach out for help,” Cohen-Archer said.

She directed mothers here for a good resource for new moms goings through a difficult time right now.