Postpartum people’s experiences of and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic during the first year of the pandemic: A descriptive qualitative study

Women’s Health, Volume 19, Issue , January-December 2023. Background:Most evidence on the impact of pandemic on perinatal population’s experiences has reported such effects in a portion of the pandemic.Objectives:The aim of this study was to understand the postpartum people’s experiences of and responses to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic during the first year and to identify their health care needs.Design:This is a descriptive qualitative study.Methods:This study was conducted in British Columbia, Canada, between March 2020 and April 2021. Participants (N = 268) were at 4 months postpartum and were recruited as part of the Pregnancy Specific Anxiety Tool study through prenatal care clinics and classes, community laboratory services and social media. Qualitative data were obtained using six online open-ended questions and were analysed using thematic analysis.Results:Findings were grouped under five central themes: protecting baby (with three categories including hypervigilance, constant decision-making to find balance and developmental issues); psychological adjustments (with three categories including coping, anxiety and grief); experience of isolation and lack/loss of support (with two categories including isolation and loss of expected support); unexpected interruptions and life events (with four categories including interrupted maternity leave, unexpected changes/life events, positive impacts and interruption in health care services); and perceived postpartum care needs (with five categories including in-person visits, allowing support persons, providing information/education/support groups, mental health and social support and pro-active check-ins).Conclusion:Several impacts of the pandemic persisted throughout the first year, particularly isolation and lack of support. These findings can inform responsive health care services to address the emerging needs of postpartum people throughout the pandemic.

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