This is revealed by the first preliminary results of a survey involving more than 14,000 women who performed screening in the period 2019-2022 at the local public services that participate in the Italian Network for Perinatal Mental Health, coordinated by the Reference Center for Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health (SCIC) of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, women with a risk of depression in the perinatal period increased, going from 11.6% in 2019 to 13.3% in 2020, up to 19.5% in the period between January and September 2021 and 25.5% in the period between November 2021 and April 2022.
These are the first national data on the impact of the pandemic on the risk of depression and anxiety in mothers during the perinatal period, which runs from the beginning of pregnancy to the first year after childbirth.
The survey – published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health – involved more than 14,000 women who performed the screening in the period 2019-2022 at the local public services participating in the Italian Network for Perinatal Mental Healthcoordinated by the Reference Center for Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health (SCIC) of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità.
Variables associated with the risk of depression include having financial problems and not being able to rely on support from relatives or friends, while being a housewife represents a lower risk. The variables associated with the risk of anxiety are being of Italian nationality, having some or many economic problems, not being able to count on the support of relatives or friends, and not having attended a childbirth preparation course.
These data, which also come from a large national sample, highlight the negative impact of the pandemic on the mental health of women in the perinatal period, confirming the role of well-known psychosocial factors for anxiety and depression and their exacerbation during the two-year period of the pandemic. Although still preliminary, the results highlight the urgency of monitoring women’s psychological well-being in the perinatal period.
The implementation of screening programs in this period is particularly important for early identification of women at higher risk of anxiety/depression and therefore their inclusion in effective intervention programmes, thus favoring the development of the mother-child relationship and mental health For all life.
Subsequent analyzes will provide information on annual trends, participating units and particular sub-groups of the population.
07 December 2022
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