The ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused severe disruption of social and economic interactions, affecting health services and other important aspects of human life. By the start of the Omicron (B.1.1.529) wave, COVID-19 was already having a shocking impact on the world, with more than 40% of the world’s population being infected once by mid-November 2021. COVID -19 damaged mental health, with cases of anxiety and depression rising by more than 25 percent worldwide, according to the WHO. In addition, statistical evidence shows that COVID-19 has a much more severe impact on mental health in women than men, according to Global Burden of Disease data.
Journal writing Reproductive Health, two researchers examined the unintended effect of the virus on maternal mental health. Contributing causes of such stresses include the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) such as lockouts and social distancing, which deprive many important ways of interacting with other people; loss of family or loved ones resulting in mental, emotional, and often financial hardship; the infection itself resulting in loss of physical and mental health; and unemployment. When combined with the continuing lack of explanation of what the future looks like, it is not difficult to understand why this pandemic is bringing on the symptoms of mental illness in many individuals.
Study: Discovering the collateral effects of COVID-19 on maternal mental health. Photo Credit: fizkes / Shutterstock
The perinatal period is already known to be a high-risk period for depression, anxiety, and psychosis or the reactivation of mental illness. In fact, new mothers were at 22 times the risk of admission for psychiatric illness compared to the same group before pregnancy. In addition, mental illness increases the risk of preterm delivery, poor bonding between mother and infant, and delayed cognitive development in infants.
Self -harm tendencies are also common at this time in women with depression, affecting at least one in five. In general, perinatal mental illness is the most common illness in the peripartum period, affecting mothers and children up to one-fifth of pregnancies. This is likely to double, at least, according to new research from Asian and Western countries.
It appears that some NPIs cause many mental illnesses, especially in those at risk. As people already living on the edge experience mobility limitations, job losses and reduced ability to seek support from family or friends, financial stress plays an added role today. fear of being infected and getting sick or dying.
Add to this the stresses of grief and loneliness, along with the burnout of many jobs in direct contact with people, and you’re looking at a recipe for anxiety and depression. Domestic violence occurs because many families spend all of their time together under conditions of insecurity and stress. At the same time, mental health services are less available than ever, while those in stress are unable to find relief through routine outlets such as going out to spend time with family, friends or neighbors.
Virtual interactions are added but do not compensate for all of these shortcomings. Many scientists point out that pregnant women and those already suffering from mental stress and mental illness are at risk due to a lack of mental health services, while online consultations do not always have good outcomes. In addition, pregnant women are often reluctant to take antidepressants, even on prescription.
The stigma of mental illness is yet another strong factor that interferes with ease of care. Meanwhile, maternity services were severely restricted during the pandemic, which led to increased stress on infertile women. Women of low socioeconomic status, including the poor, uneducated, unemployed, and unmarried, are the hardest hit.
In particular, in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), 85% of people in need for mental health services, including those with substance abuse, mental illness or neurological illness, cut off from necessary care due to mental retardation. health workers, estimated to have a shortage of nearly 1.2 million. In many of these countries, there is less than one worker for 100,000 people.
The study authors highlighted the need for governments to work closely with voluntary organizations, communities, and health care organizations to improve mental health care for pregnant mothers. Since mental health care can only receive about 2% of the already small health budget, a greater investment is needed.
Many workers in this field need to be recruited and trained, especially in LMICs. Virtual consultations can help reduce the shortage of existing workers, even if a hybrid model would be best. Better laws and programs are needed to elevate the ranking of mental healthcare among other needs during a health crisis, such as the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2030.
Efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness should use social media acceptance and reach, such as pioneered by, for example, Facemums, a Facebook service run by midwives, to support pregnant women. woman in the early stages of locking in the UK.
International efforts are being made by WHO, other non-governmental organizations, and voluntary agencies such as the Red Cross or Red Crescent, to bring mental health support to key health care responses to COVID-19. Once again, the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) in the UK includes more than 100 organizations working together to provide quality mental health care on a reliable basis to many women during the peripartum period.
Pregnant health care workers need extra support because burnout is a frequent problem in this field and can lead to suicidal thoughts. Such staff may need to be transferred to less traumatic tasks, and remote work may be the best solution in such cases. They should also be given priority access to professionals who can support their mental health.
“Social social vulnerabilities are closely linked to social health determinations. Practical measures that promote equity, social justice, and a shift in the balance of power and resources can improve the poor state of maternal mental health around the world.. “
In conclusion, there is an urgent need for action to address the significant decline in maternal mental health observed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to increase mental health funding, alleviate societal vulnerabilities, and promote a greater presence in community organizations to counter this formidable threat.