Perinatal Depression in Australian Women during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Birth in the Time of COVID-19 (BITTOC) Study

Belinda Lequertier, Mia A. McLean, Sue Kildea, Suzanne King, Hazel Keedle, Yu Gao, Jacqueline A. Boyle, Kingsley Agho, Hannah G. Dahlen

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted perinatal mental health globally. We determined the maternal factors and pandemic-related experiences associated with clinically significant perinatal (pregnant and post-partum) depressive symptoms in Australian women. Participants (n = 2638; pregnant n = 1219, postnatal n = 1419) completed an online survey (August 2020 through February 2021) and self-reported on depression, social support, and COVID-19 related experiences. We found elevated depressive symptoms amongst 26.5% (pregnant) and 19% (postnatal) women. Multiple logistic regression analyses showed higher likelihood of elevated depression associated with residence in Victoria, lower education, past/current mental health problems, greater non-pandemic prenatal stress, age ≥ 35 years (pregnant women) and existing physical health issues or disability in self or others (postnatal women). Greater family stress/discord and lower social support (friends) was associated with higher odds of elevated perinatal depression, while lower social support (family) was significantly associated with elevated depressive symptoms in pregnant women. Greater depression was associated with social distancing, pandemic-related news exposure and changes to prenatal care (pregnant women). Single postnatal women showed lower odds of elevated depression than partnered women. Our findings underscore the importance of universal screening for depression and targeted support during a pandemic for perinatal women displaying vulnerability factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5062
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume19
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022

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