Coronavirus pandemic blamed for increase in postpartum depression, anxiety in new mothers

Mental health expert says mothers need to know it’s OK to ask for help

SAN ANTONIO – Arlene Serrano openly talks about her postpartum depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to break the stigma and help other moms find help during the coronavirus pandemic.

Serrano says there were clues that she was not OK during her third trimester of pregnancy, but she attributed it to other factors.

“During my first trimester, I started feeling really worried that I was not going to be there for my baby, that I was going to die during childbirth. And this was not all the time,” she said.

After Serrano’s child was born, the new mother said she was still not OK, so she started trying to determine why.

“Things were not going well with me, and I was just so worried, and I felt so inadequate,” she said.

Maria Zeitz, perinatal mood and anxiety counselor for Methodist Healthcare System, says the pandemic has impacted new mothers’ mental health.

“We’re all happy about this baby, but I’m feeling sad, or I’m feeling this irritability, anger, maybe even some rage called postpartum rage,” Zeitz said, referring to what mothers tell her.

Symptoms can go from mild to moderate to extreme, which could include dark thoughts. (See web extra video explanation below.)

Zeitz says postpartum depression and anxiety diagnosis increased in 2020. Before the pandemic, about 15% to 20% of women were experiencing postpartum depression. In, 2020 that number went up to 40%.

Anxiety rose from 29% to 72%, and Baby Blues a feeling of sadness and moodiness some experience in the weeks after giving birth went from about 85% to 90%.

There was also an increase in these mental health issues among women during pregnancy. The mother’s partner or support person needs to know the signs and help them get help. However, some moms may be reluctant to get assistance. (See web extra explanation below.)

“If you’re noticing that they’re getting worse, and it’s affecting her ability to function and take care of her baby, then you need to seek health help as soon as possible,” Zeitz said.

Zeitz wants moms to know there’s help available. She offers free help, but insurance should cover postpartum depression. Mothers should make sure to contact their OBGYN for help with coverage.

Serrano also connects with other mothers and says it’s important to have a community of support. She started a blog and offers it in Spanish because she noticed there was a lack of information in that language.

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.