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Postnatal depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic: The needs and experiences of New Zealand mothers and health care providers

The postnatal period is a vulnerable time for women’s mental health, particularly within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, there have been no studies based in New Zealand that have asked mothers who gave birth during the pandemic about their needs and experiences with postnatal depression and/or anxiety. The aim of this study was to interview Auckland-based mothers and health care providers to find out their needs and experiences with postnatal mental health within the pandemic context. Eleven semi-structured interviews were conducted, consisting of eight mothers who gave birth during the pandemic and self-identified as experiencing postnatal depression/anxiety, and three healthcare providers who support women with postnatal mental illness. Overall, the participants’ stories reflected a period of uncertainty, anxiety, and isolation. A lack of focus on mothers’ mental health during postnatal healthcare appointments was evident, as well as a lack of support services to refer the women to, should they reach out for help. Recommendations based on this study are to prioritise safe, in-person access to important sources of support and healthcare for postnatal women during the pandemic. Improving accessibility to a range of treatment options for those with mild to moderate mental illness also needs to be a priority. A dedicated postnatal mental health support line for New Zealand women could be beneficial to broaden the support options available to mothers, both within and outside the pandemic context. More focus on maternal mental health training for midwives and other postnatal health care providers such as Plunket nurses is also warranted, to increase their ability to support women struggling with postnatal mental illness.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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