How to combat postpartum depression and anxiety during COVID-19

7 expert ways to start to feel better 👇

depression covid

Around the world, people are struggling with their mental health as we adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people who are already at risk, such as those with a history of mental health struggles, are finding that they are being triggered into anxious and depressive states. This is understandable. Almost overnight, our routines have turned upside down. The uncertainties of the situation and stay-at-home mandates have presented unique challenges. Humans are social by nature, and when we do not get regular social contact, our mental health suffers.

Pregnant women and new moms may face even more difficulty.

The transition into motherhood is a vulnerable one. Research has found that women are more at risk of experiencing anxiety or depression during pregnancy than at any other time in their lives due to new challenges. We know that as many as one out of five women will experience a postpartum mood disorder—and women who struggle with anxiety or depression may continue to experience symptoms throughout her life.

In the era of social distancing, the support systems that usually promote mental health during the vulnerable transition into motherhood, such as social support from family and doulas, are missing. This makes new mothers even more at risk for mental health issues.

There are other factors that may contribute to increased rates of postpartum mood disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well. They include:

  • Stay at home mandates
  • Wondering when the pandemic will be over and when life can go back to normal
  • Worrying about catching the virus or a loved one catching it
  • Worrying about transmitting the virus to your baby
  • Hospitals limiting birth support persons
  • Having to rethink and re-engineer your expectations about your birth experience and days after delivery
  • Being pregnant and having other young children to care for so that you have little time for rest or relief

With all of these factors in place, it's no wonder that women are at an increased risk of developing postpartum mood disorders right now.

But there are steps to take to protect yourself.

First, recognizing that you may be experiencing perinatal anxiety and depression will help you take control of your recovery.

The symptoms of anxiety and depression can include:

  • Changes to your sleep
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Irritability
  • Constant fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Losing interest in things that used to bring you joy
  • Worrying about things you did not use to worry about
  • Feeling sad or stressed often
  • Feeling like you want to hurt yourself or others (please call 911 or go to an emergency room if this is the case)

(To learn more about the symptoms of postpartum depression, take this screening quiz.)

If you are concerned that you may have a postpartum mood disorder, the most important thing to do is to reach out for help. A therapist can make a virtual appointment with you to assess your symptoms, and help you make a plan for feeling better.

We are living in unprecedented times. Even during the best of times, my research team and I encourage pregnant women and new mothers to take extra care to be emotionally healthy during pregnancy. As we go through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever.

In addition to therapy, here are seven ways to start feeling better when dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Engage in lots of baby cuddles

Holding and stroking babies has been found to decrease the risk of postpartum depression. When you hold your baby, your body releases oxytocin, the love hormone. Oxytocin has a lot of therapeutic benefits, and making us feel better emotionally is a great one.

2. Limit your media intake

Try not to watch the news right when you wake up or when you are about to go to bed and limit the amount of time that you spend each day listening to news reports. Make use of reliable information sources that do not sensationalize the news. If your province or state gives a daily update, that may be the one piece of trustworthy, non-sensationalized news to listen to.

3. Recognize that it is healthy to feel stress

Try not to feel pressured not to have stressful thoughts–it is okay and normal to feel stressed! Give yourself permission to feel your feelings, rather than dismissing them. If you find, though, that you can't think about anything else, that is a good point to reach out for help.

4. Practice gratitude

While you can't control the coronavirus situation, and nervousness and concern are completely natural, you might be able to change some of the negative thoughts. A good habit is to identify when you are focusing on a worry and flip it around to the point of gratitude; gratitude has been found to help relieve the symptoms of depression.

What are a few aspects of your situation that you can feel grateful for? The first signs of spring? Your favorite tv show? The love of someone you know?

Forming a gratitude practice can feel tough at first, but as you start to use new brain pathways, it will get easier. Imagine if you came away from the COVID-19 situation with a healthier brain!

5. Sleep

Getting enough sleep is (understandably) harder for pregnant women and postpartum moms who get up regularly throughout the night for feedings and to calm crying babies. Yet sleep is important to not only our daily functioning but to our mental health, as well.

To the extent that you can, try to establish bedtime rituals to relax and develop a sense of routine and calm. And try to prioritize sleep. Nap when your child naps. Even if you are tempted to stay up to clean the house after your child has gone to bed, it is better to unwind and sleep.

6. Challenge yourself to complete one task each day

Anxiety can sometimes be fueled by feeling like you "haven't accomplished anything." You don't have to be "productive" during this time, however, accomplishing small tasks may help your mental wellbeing. What is one thing you can do right now that will make you feel just the slightest bit better? Even if nothing else gets done, you can feel a sense of victory over accomplishing your one big thing for the day.

7. Get creative with enjoying nature

Even with stay home mandates, it is likely possible to get outside in some capacity—and doing so can be extremely therapeutic. Studies have found that spending time outside can decrease the symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is in part due to the benefits of vitamin D (which we get from the sun).

Sit on your front porch for half an hour and breathe in the smells of spring, feel the sun on your face, and talk to your baby about the birds and flowers you see. Can you grow something? Even if you don't have a garden, urban gardeners are having great success with container gardening.

Nature can be extremely therapeutic, reminding us that seasonal cycles are still occurring.

Taking care of our emotional needs and adapting to new ways to stay socially connected can not only help you stay calm and be happier but can also reduce unnecessary pressure on your immune system. Remember other hardships you have overcome and that you are a resilient, strong and adaptable individual. We are in this together, we will get through it together and some kind of normalcy will eventually return.

In This Article

    Why right now is the best time for a drivable getaway

    Flexible schedules mean more vacation options. 🙌

    Looking back now, last winter feels like a lifetime ago. At the time, my husband and I were eagerly planning our summer vacation just as we've done in years past. You know how the next part goes: COVID-19 came into the picture and changed our plans not only for vacationing, but for so much else in life.

    In the time since then, we've gained a truly valuable new perspective on what matters—and realized we don't have to look so far to make beautiful memories with our kids. By exploring getaways within driving distance of our home, we've developed a new appreciation for the ability to "pack up the car and go."

    Of course, that isn't to say that travel is the carefree adventure it once was. With COVID-19 still a very big part of the equation, we've become much more diligent about planning trips that allow for social distancing and exceed cleanliness standards. That's why we've exclusively turned to Vrbo, which helps us find nearby accommodations that meet our new criteria. Better yet?

    Thanks to the money we've saved by skipping air travel and our remote-friendly work schedules, we're able to continue with the trips throughout the fall.

    Here are a few more reasons we believe it's a great time for drivable getaways.

    Flexible schedules allow us to mix work + play.

    After months of lockdown, my family was definitely itching for a change of scenery as the summer began. By looking at drivable destinations with a fresh set of eyes—and some helpful accommodation-finding filters on Vrbo—we were able to find private houses that meet our needs. (Like comfortably fitting our family of five without anyone having to sleep on a pull-out couch!)

    With space to spread out and feel like a home away from home, we quickly realized that we didn't need to limit our getaways to the weekends—instead we could take a "Flexcation," a trip that allows us to mix work and play. Thanks to the ability to work remotely and our kids' distance-learning schedule for the fall, we're planning a mid-week trip next month that will allow us to explore a new destination after clocking out for the day.

    We’re embracing off-season deals.

    With Labor Day no longer marking the end of our vacationing season, we're able to take advantage of nearby getaways that mark down their rates during the off season. For us in the Mountain West, that means visiting ski-town destinations when the leaves are falling rather than the snow. By saving money on that front, we're able to splurge a bit with our accommodations—so you can bet I search for houses that include a private hot tub for soaking in while enjoying the mountain views!

    Vacationing is a way to give back.

    If we've learned one thing this year, it's that life can change pretty quickly. That's given us a new appreciation for generous cancellation policies and transparent cleaning guidelines when booking trips. By seeing both of these things front and center in Vrbo listings along with reviews from fellow travelers, I feel confident when I hit the "book now" button.

    Beyond that, I know that booking a trip through Vrbo isn't only a gift to my family. On the other side of the transaction, there are vacation home owners and property managers who appreciate the income during these uncertain times. What's more, taking getaways allows us to support our local economy—even if it's just by ordering new takeout food to enjoy from our home away from home.

    While "looking ahead" doesn't feel as easy as it once did, I am confident that there will be a lot of drivable getaways in our future.

    This article was sponsored by Vrbo. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.


    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

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