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Postpartum mental health visits increased by 30% during the pandemic: study

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Toronto –Heather Eldebs remembers feeling nothing when he ate takeaway at his favorite burger restaurant with his young family five years ago.

Eight months after her first child was born to her husband Eddie, Eldebs had a hard time explaining her mental state, so she searched Google for “postpartum depression.” And after recognizing the symptoms, she turned to professional help.

The depression and anxiety attacks Eldebs felt after giving birth to his son Joey, her first experience of postpartum mental illness, recurred three years after her daughter Ally was born.

A mother in London, Ontario, had recovered from her worst illness by the time the COVID-19 epidemic began in Canada, but sympathizes with those whose postpartum psychological concerns have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Study published on Monday Canadian Medical Association Journal Mental health care visits by new mothers in Ontario increased by 30% during the pandemic compared to the average year, with a significant increase within the first three months after delivery.

This increase is not surprising, as the pandemic restrictions have removed “a great many things new mothers clung to in the early days” after childbirth, Eldebs said.

“I no longer go to a group of moms, another mom’s house, or someone comes in to watch over my baby for an hour and take a nap,” she says.

“We often minimize (postpartum mental illness).’Oh, that’s just the stage. You’re a newborn. It’s a rough idea.'” But that’s definitely it. That’s it. “

The CMAJ survey examined 137,609 postnatal mental health visits in Ontario from March to November 2020, visiting both GPs and psychiatrists.

They found that people living in northern public health units had a relatively small increase since July 2020.

Dr. Simone Vigod, chief psychiatrist at the Women’s University Hospital in Toronto and co-author of the study, said that she was isolated from the COVID-19 restrictions, financial anxiety due to unemployment, and health concerns about circulating viruses. A visit recorded by her team states that everything may be contributing to the increase in mental health.

According to Vigod, one of the biggest risk factors for developing postpartum mental illness is previously having mental health problems, while the second is lack of social support and life stress. ..

Pandemic restrictions “essentially reduced social support for new parents and increased life stress,” Vigod said.

“Family, friends, peer support, and public health nurses come and help, and they really protect us from postpartum mental illness,” she added.

Vigod says virtual options for care are likely to have contributed to the increase in visits by making them accessible to at least some people.

The study found that patients living in the lowest-income areas had the least increase in mental health. Vigod says this raises concerns about other potential barriers to access to care. This includes technology, internet capabilities, and privacy in the patient’s home.

The Vigod team looked only at Ontario data, but expects similar trends across the country, based on the results of a broader mental health survey by the pandemic.

“(Survey) people were aware of increased psychological distress, but it was not clear whether this was a natural anxiety or an increased need for clinical care.” She says. , Pointed out that the findings are part of the driving force for further investigation of the data.

Postpartum mental illness affects one in five mothers, and chronicity can have long-term consequences for children and their families, according to researchers.

The term postpartum depression is well known, but according to Bigod, mental health concerns can manifest themselves in other forms of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other forms of illness. She said there was a range of severity, adding that not all cases required medication or intensive psychiatric treatment.

Still, postpartum mental health concerns are a “major issue” that should not be ignored.

“It has potential implications for children and generations,” says Bigodo, who treated Eldebs throughout both postpartum periods. “Therefore, these people are during a pandemic, and perhaps. It’s really our job to make sure we have the ability to meet their needs and invigorate them when they are having more trouble after a pandemic. “

Eldebs says you should be aware that you are not the only new parent with mental health problems. And while efforts have been made over the last few years to eliminate mental health stigma, she feels that postpartum depression has not kept pace.

“It’s very important for them to be kind to themselves,” she says. “The guilt they may feel, the embarrassment of getting sick and losing hope, and not wanting to be a parent at some point should be very exciting and happy. It’s not their fault. “

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on June 7, 2021.

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