Researchers from University College London found that new mothers were feeling isolated, exhausted, and worried during national COVID-19 lockdown periods. These findings were published in Frontiers in Psychology.
Social network data from 162 mothers of infants aged £6 months who lived in London during the first lockdown period in England (May-June 2020) were included in this cross-sectional study. The mothers were assessed for depressive symptoms with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and online communications were analyzed with a quasi-Poisson regression model.
The investigators found little evidence that social networks had been altered by the lockdown.
The women on average saw a single family member other than their partner during lockdown, most often their mothers (79.0%) and 100% had a virtual meet-up with other friends with children. Mothers who had given birth before the lockdown were less likely to see their friends than women who had given birth during the lockdown.
Both the number of people (relative risk ratio [RRR], 1.002; 95% CI, 0.999-1,005) and the number of family members (RRR, 1.003; 95% CI, 1.001-1.006) seen face-to-face were associated with increased symptoms of depression.
Many women felt that virtual contact was inadequate. Without face-to-face interactions with friends, the women reported they were mourning for lost opportunities.
The mothers described both positive and negative effects of the lockdown.
Mothers felt that the isolation gave them a unique opportunity to bond with their baby and nuclear family, and that they were protecting their family from others. However, the women reported that they were constantly mothering with little support.
It remained unclear what level of support these women were receiving from their partners, but many said they felt exhausted and isolated. This was particularly true for mothers of >1 child.
Feelings of worry and anxiety were increasing. Some women feared that their baby would become over-attached and have difficulty around others in the future.
This study may not be generalizable, as the investigators used convenience sampling to recruit these participants.
This study found that mothers living in London during the nationwide lockdown were experiencing symptoms of isolation, exhaustion, depression, and worry.
Myers S, Emmott EH. Communication across maternal social networks during England’s first national lockdown and its association with postnatal depressive symptoms. Front Psychol. Published online May 11, 2021. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648002