Mental Health Supports Needed for Pregnant People During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Study Finds | The Canadian News

Rebecca Bourdon is just weeks away from giving birth to her second child amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The second time during the pandemic and I am currently 35 weeks old, it has gone quite well,” she said, noting that it is a different experience from her first pregnancy during the first wave of the pandemic.

“As cases started to increase here in Canada, that’s when my anxiety started to skyrocket.”

Bourdon said she is concerned about contracting the virus, attending medical appointments alone, going into labor without her husband by her side, among other concerns.

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“Being a mother for the first time and being pregnant for the first time is already a very anxious situation, so it was definitely made worse by the pandemic,” she said.

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A new study led by doctors from Unity Health Toronto found that 69 percent of pregnant people during the COVID-19 pandemic experienced moderate to high levels of distress and 20 percent had depressive symptoms.

The researchers surveyed nearly 1,500 participants online and 87 percent of them are Canadian.

“We’re seeing all these different impacts on pregnant people and we really want to understand what the main concerns were so that we can better address them in clinical care and make sure we provide support … and that was really the impetus behind the study,” explained the psychiatrist. perinatal hospital at Women’s College Hospital, Dr. Lucy Barker.

The study found that the top five concerns during pregnancy were: hospital policies regarding support people in labor, not being able to introduce your baby to loved ones, getting sick from COVID-19 during pregnancy, not being able to relying on family or friends after delivery. for support and conflicting medical information on COVID-19 in pregnancy and newborns, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.

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“We know that the newborn period is incredibly difficult and sometimes you may have a single parent or the partner needs to go back to work and there are few people to turn to and therefore with the restrictions of COVID-19, requests to stay at home were limited. people families can turn to for support at home, ”said Dr. Tali Bogler, lead study author and family physician and chair of family medicine obstetrics at Unity Health Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital.

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“This was incredibly difficult for people and had a huge impact on people’s mental health.”

After the birth of her son, Bourdon said she felt the effects of social isolation due to widespread lockdowns in Ontario.

“It was a very isolated time for my family. Since we are here in Toronto and our family and friends are in a different city, we did not have that fundamental support that many new parents or parents in general really need, ”he said.

“We were able to use Facetime to introduce our new son to our families, but we missed some of those really important moments.”

Bourdon, who is studying medicine, said he recognized the need to seek professional support.

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“It’s definitely a difficult step to accept that you might be feeling overly anxious or depressed, especially since you’re already trying to be such a strong mother or father to your child … but I think it’s important to address it,” she said. said.

“It’s important that people feel comfortable talking about it with their healthcare providers and that healthcare providers especially ask about it on those initial postpartum visits.”

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Bourdon was able to access care virtually, which helped, he said, because he was at home with a new baby.

The study authors recommend that hospitals better utilize technology to help address concerns by hosting more virtual check-ups and providing more online resources with evidence-based information about COVID-19 relevant to future parents and new parents.

“One of the main things that bothered pregnant women the most was that they did not have the preparation and support typical of hospital antenatal classes. Many of them went virtual, although not all. And it is still difficult to find virtual prenatal classes, ”he said.

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Bogler said he’s hopeful the study will lead to more innovative ways to provide greater perinatal support.

“With the perinatal population, it is such a unique and vulnerable population that we need to think differently about them sometimes … we feel that the pregnant population is often this forgotten population and they need to be at the forefront when we make policy decisions, when we are investigating, ”he said.

As for Bourdon, who is just weeks away from becoming a mother of two, understanding her mental health needs, accessing care and feeling supported has made this second pregnancy that much less stressful.

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“I have more of that support now with this pregnancy due to the lifting of the lockdowns and because our families are vaccinated, they can come here and support us in that postpartum period and not feel like they are putting us at risk. or we don’t feel like we’re putting them at risk, ”he said.

“Overall, it’s a more comfortable experience. And my husband has obviously been able to attend the ultrasounds this time, and he also feels more involved in taking care of his son. “

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