Silver linings: The mixed personal experiences among postpartum women during the COVID-19 pandemic

Principal Investigator: Cindy H. Liu, PhD

Authors: Isabel Brown, Ga Tin Finneas Wong, Carmina Erdei, MD, Leena Mittal, MD, Cindy H. Liu, PhD
Lay Abstract

Postpartum women have faced numerous challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however the pandemic has also provided opportunities for personal growth. While it is important to identify potential risks and possible negative outcomes from the pandemic, it is important to discover the positive outcomes of the pandemic as well. This will allow us to better understand postpartum women’s experiences and support them during the pandemic.

The Perinatal Experiences and COVID-19 Effects (PEACE) study asked mothers of babies 5-11 months old about their experiences during the pandemic. Among this group, 11% of the mothers reported some level of growth or positive experience. These experiences included personal and professional growth, bonding with baby, and breastfeeding. Of that 11%, 29% experienced personal growth and 29% experienced better bonding with their baby. Statements reflecting these positive experiences include “[The pandemic] allowed me to grow as a mom” and “my relationship with my baby has benefitted.” Our data reveals the mixed experiences that have taken place among postpartum women. Such findings may help providers to recognize the role of nuanced experiences which accompany motherhood in maternal mental health.

Scientific Abstract

The adversities associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have led to challenges worldwide, but have also posed opportunities for personal growth. Several studies have shown post-traumatic growth (PTG) – the positive change experienced after a challenging event – has been exhibited among those who have suffered a loss after childbirth. It is unknown whether positive experiences have occurred in tandem during the pandemic for postpartum women. Identifying this is crucial for facilitating a better understanding of the full and diverse experiences of postpartum women during this time.​​

Through content and thematic analyses, we examined the qualitative responses submitted by postpartum women in Wave 2 (N=64) of the Perinatal Experiences and COVID-19 Effects (PEACE) study, an online survey when their infants were 5-to-11 months old. Among the sample, 11%  reported positive features in their experience, including personal or professional growth, bonding with baby, and breastfeeding. Statements reflecting these experiences include “[The pandemic] allowed me to grow as a mom,” and “my relationship with my baby has benefitted.” Our data reveals the mixed experiences that have taken place among some postpartum women. Our findings may help providers to recognize the role of nuanced experiences which accompany motherhood in maternal mental health.

Clinical Implications
Our findings may help providers to recognize the role of nuanced experiences which accompany motherhood in maternal mental health.

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