Covid-19 pandemic grief may hamper bond between mothers and babies, new study finds

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  • A new study looked at how new mothers and their babies were affected by the pandemic.
  • The study found that Covid grief weakened the bond between mother and child.
  • This was associated with depressive symptoms, but not anxiety.

New research has found that pandemic-related grief could compromise the bond between mothers and their babies.

The study published in Pediatric Research assessed the link between mental health symptoms, along with psychological effects and Covid-19-related concerns, and the maternal-infant bonding experience of postpartum women.

The researchers collected data from 429 women between 19 May and 17 August 2020. The women completed a 30- to 45-minutes online survey of Covid-19-related experiences, pregnancy, stress, and well-being. The women in the study were 18 years or older and were at least 13 weeks pregnant at the time of enrollment or had given birth to a live baby during the past six months.

The study looked at factors such as Covid-19-related health, Covid-19-related grief, depression symptoms, maternal self-efficacy and social support.

Weakening of the mother-child bond

According to the findings of the study, there were potential psychological risk factors to maternal-infant bonding among postpartum women during the pandemic period. The researchers identified that postpartum mothers had depressive symptoms, but few signs of anxiety.

The study also found that Covid-19-specific grief due to experiences of loss during the pandemic was linked with lower levels of mother-baby bonding – while Covid-19-related stress about health was associated with higher levels of mother-child bonding.

The results also show that women experiencing their first pregnancy were more likely to report higher levels of bonding, as well as those with younger and female infants.

The authors say that the study findings show that there is a critical need for postpartum depression and Covid-19-related grief treatment during maternal follow-up and paediatric visits. The findings also inform and prioritise paediatric interventions toward enhancing maternal-infant bonding during the Covid-19 era.

“Our work suggests that we should also consider channelling support toward mothers who are experiencing depression, including those who particularly felt dazed or a sense of the surreal as a result of the pandemic.

For mothers, our message is, ‘Don’t dismiss the effects of the pandemic on your well-being and the way it may affect your relationships with others, including with your baby,'” said corresponding author Dr Cindy Liu in a press statement.

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

READ | Emergency deliveries more likely in pregnant women with symptomatic Covid-19

READ | Studies show that mask-wearing reduces Covid-19 outbreaks in schools

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