Though Amelia Versteeg was in the midst of B.C.’s first COVID-19 lockdown when she found out she was pregnant, the North Vancouver mom says she and her husband were optimistic the pregnancy would be relatively normal.
What followed, however, was anything but, as prenatal care shifted to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.
“You don’t get that connection and sense of community that you would if you were going [to appointments in person],” said Versteeg, 34.
“You never run into other mothers … all the appointments were staggered to make sure that you didn’t come across anyone else.”
After being induced four weeks early, Versteeg’s daughter, Clarke, was born healthy at the end of November 2020.
But the stress and isolation of pregnancy cast a long shadow over new motherhood, resulting in postpartum depression
Experts across B.C. say they are seeing an increase in postpartum depression, stretching supports for new mothers thin.
In a statement, B.C.’s Ministry of Health acknowledged that mental health programs for women and their families, including treatment services for postpartum depression, have seen an increase in demand.
It also says “we are slowly seeing a decrease in the number of patients on the wait-list, so it is expected that wait times will start trending downward again.”
But Versteeg told CBC News she’s not sure the government is aware of the toll wait times can have on those living with postpartum depression.
She had initially been referred to B.C. Women’s Hospital for prenatal anxiety treatment in October 2020, only to be put on a wait-list. Two months later, following Clarke’s birth, she told her husband she had begun to experience intrusive, graphic thoughts about harming her newborn.
Versteeg found individual and group counselling through the non-profit Pacific Post Partum Support Society (PPPSS), but it wasn’t until late January 2021 that the new mom — now diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety — had her first hospital appointment.
Asked about the wait times at B.C. Women’s Hospital, Providence Health deferred to the Ministry of Health, who did not provide any numbers.
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