COVID-19: B.C. Women's Hospital reports increase in people needing help for postpartum issues

Many families haven’t had the support networks of friends and family filling in the gaps in their safety net.

Tiffany Crawford 3 minute read March 30, 2022

A newborn baby and his mom. Getty Images/iStock Photo. Enzo Nguyen@Tercer Ojo Photography / Getty Images/iStockphoto

B.C. Women’s Hospital is reporting an increase in new parents needing support for postpartum problems during COVID-19.

Dr. Astrid Christoffersen-Deb, the hospital’s medical director of population and global health, says the reduction in world travel and family gatherings has reduced social and family networks after childbirth. As a result, many families haven’t had the support of friends and family filling in the gaps in their safety net, she said Wednesday.

While the hospital doesn’t have data to show the exact number, she said they have seen a noticeable increase in people needing help with postpartum depression or anxiety, social isolation among new immigrants with newborns, violence in the home, and lactation problems when there’s less in-person help.

Some studies have shown that in some cases the number of people needing support for postpartum depression has gone from around 10 per cent pre-pandemic to as high as 40 per cent during the pandemic.

This increase is especially prevalent in remote communities in B.C., said Christoffersen-Deb.

“Although social isolation keeps us safe from COVID, it really puts us at risk when we have recently delivered and when we’re home, and we know particularly people in remote communities and those who are new to Canada have really struggled the most with that isolation.”

Christoffersen-Deb said in an effort to figure out how to address this problem, the hospital is co-hosting the Global Health Conference on Thursday, with a focus on the first 42 days after childbirth.

She said there is more work to be done to ensure there is a seamless transition into postpartum care, especially following up with home care for people who may have had complicated deliveries or may not be able to leave their home.

There are ways members of the community or friends can help new parents who may be struggling. Christoffersen-Deb said it can be really hard for a new parent to ask for help, so check in with them, and help them connect with other new parents. Or help by bringing a meal or asking if you can do anything for them.

“It takes a village not a bubble to raise a child and if you can reach out of your bubble, to connect with someone who has recently gone through pregnancy and has come home after delivery, that can be very meaningful.”

Also, she recommends paying close attention to those who may have had a more medically complicated birth, or who may have had a stillborn baby.

“These are all things that really require a village to come together and for the community to come together.”

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