Background: There are very few developed countries where physical isolation and low community transmission has been reported for COVID-19 but this has been the experience of Australia. The impact of physical isolation combined with low disease transmission on the mental health of pregnant women is currently unknown and there have been no studies examining the psychological experience for partners of pregnant women during lockdown. The aim of the current study was to examine the impact of the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 and post lockdown from August 2020 on the mental health of pregnant women or postpartum women and their partners.
Methods: Pregnant women and their partners were prospectively recruited to the study before 24 weeks gestation and completed various questionnaires related to mental health and general wellbeing at 24 weeks gestation and then again at 6 weeks postpartum. The Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) were used as outcome measures for the assessment of mental health in women and DASS-21 was administered to their partners. This analysis encompasses 3 time points where families were recruited; before the pandemic (Aug 2018-Feb 2020), during lockdown (Mar-Aug 2020) and after the first lockdown was over (Sept-Dec 2020).
Results: There was no significant effect of COVID-19 lockdown and post lockdown on depression or postnatal depression in women when compared to a pre-COVID-19 subgroup. The odds of pregnant women or postpartum women experiencing severe anxiety was more than halved in women during lockdown relative to women in the pre-COVID-19 period (OR = 0.47; 95%CI: 0.27–0.81; P = 0.006). Following lockdown severe anxiety was comparable to the pre-COVID-19 women. Lockdown did not have any substantial effects on stress scores for pregnant and postpartum women. However, a substantial decrease of over 70% in the odds of severe stress was observed post-lockdown relative to pre-COVID-19 levels. Partner’s depression, anxiety and stress did not change significantly with lockdown or post lockdown.
Conclusion: A reproductive age population appear to be able to manage the impact of lockdown and the pandemic with some benefits related to reduced anxiety.