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Postnatal depression was TWICE as common among new mothers during lockdowns


Mothers who were caring for a new baby during lockdown were twice as likely to be struck by postnatal depression, according to a study. 

University College London experts surveyed 162 London-based women with infants younger than six months old between May and June last year.

Almost half (47 per cent) said they were suffering from guilt, anxiety and exhaustion among other symptoms, which fitted the definition of the illness.

For comparison, estimates from multiple studies in Europe suggest rates were at one in five (23 per cent) before the pandemic. 

Experts blamed the rise on the burden of 'constant mothering' without childcare or support from other family members.

The team also pointed to feelings among some mothers that they had missed out on forming friendships with other mothers and their babies.

Charities helping struggling mothers said they 'were not surprised' by the study's results, and that they had seen more mothers requesting support since the pandemic began.

The survey asked the women to list 25 people who were important to them — such as family and close friends — and then which of these they had seen in person, spoken to or messaged.

They also answered questions on how they were feeling to assess whether they were suffering from PND.

Mothers who took part were between 19 and 47 years old. Half of them were first time mothers, while 40 per cent were having their second child.

Half of them also said they had no complications during birth, while one in ten said there were 'major complications' — which may have led to a C-section, a condition linked to higher levels of PND. 

As many as 115 babies in the study were born before the first lockdown began, and 47 were born during the restrictions.

Only two of the women who took part said they had no partners.

The results suggested mothers caring for babies during lockdown were more likely to suffer from isolation, exhaustion, worry, inadequacy, guilt and increased stress.

Those who had more contact with people faced fewer depressive symptoms than the mothers who were more isolated.

But when they saw close family members more often, mothers were also more likely to be suffering from PND than those that saw fewer relatives according to the survey. 

They highlighted concerns including fears they were not being seen as a good mother, and the developmental impact on their baby of mixing with few infants.

The scientists added, however, that not everything mothers experienced due to lockdown was negative.

Some said the shutdown 'protected' family time, boosting bonding between parents and their children.

Others said their partners were around more often, and could help out more than previously had life been like pre-March 2020.