New mothers twice as likely to have post-natal depression in
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Almost half (47.5%) of women with babies aged six months or younger met the threshold for postnatal depression during the first COVID-19 lockdown, more than double average rates for Europe before the pandemic (23%), finds a new study.

Researchers surveyed 162 mums in London between May and June 2020 using a unique social network survey designed in response to lockdown. Participants listed up to 25 people who were important to them and shared who they had interacted with and how, whether in person, by phone, video call, or messaging on social media.

The women also reported on their well-being with researchers basing depression ratings on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, the most commonly used tool. This allowed them to capture the full range of mothers' social interactions, as well as their mental health. The findings have been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

The more contact new mums had with people, either remotely or face-to-face, the fewer depressive symptoms they reported, suggesting reduced social contact during lockdown may have increased the risk of postnatal depression.

Many mothers felt that lockdown created a 'burden of constant mothering' without anyone around to help and that while virtual contact helped, it was still inadequate.

Not everything new mums experienced as a result of lockdown was negative. Some felt it 'protected' family time, leading to better bonding. Other benefits included partners being around more to co-parent and help out than if the UK had not been in lockdown.

New mothers with more than one child were hardest hit, left to deal with newborns on top of multiple demands like homeschooling.

While Western childrearing norms focus on intensive parenting, and fathers are key caregivers, the results highlight that it still “takes a village” to raise children in high-income populations, and mothers are struggling in its absence.

Frontiers in Psychology