The experience of pregnancy and postpartum anxiety disorders results in adverse birth outcomes and the disrupted development of infants and children. Since the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated pregnant and postpartum women as more vulnerable to COVID-19 (CDC, 2021), and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders rates have increased. However, research regarding the lived experience of women with postpartum anxiety (PPA) during a global pandemic remains lacking. Using van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenological research method, we interviewed eight women self-identifying as having had PPA during the COVID-19 pandemic. Analysis revealed five themes describing the lived experience of PPA during COVID-19: Wired, Trapped, Lost in Time, No Safety Net, and Doubting Myself. The lived experience of PPA was both mirrored and masked by the lived experience of a global pandemic, exacerbating PPA due to the unknown and constricting nature of the pandemic. These findings suggest the need for future research to include subjective human experiences as pivotal components in creating support practices and a deeper understanding of PPA in the context of unprecedented life events.


postpartum anxiety (PPA), hermeneutic phenomenology, COVID-19, qualitative, pandemic, postpartum

Author Bio(s)

Walker Ladd, Ph.D. is faculty in the Department of Research at Saybrook University. She teaches advanced qualitative research methods including grounded theory, hermeneutic phenomenology, heuristic inquiry, narrative inquiry, and autoethnography. Her research agenda includes perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, traumatic childbirth, and the stigma of mental illness. Please direct correspondence to wladd@saybrook.edu

Jenny De Decker is a doctoral student at Saybrook University in the Mind-Body Medicine program specializing in Mindful Leadership in Healthcare. She is currently working on a grounded theory dissertation focusing on compassionate healthcare and serving as a peer mentor and teaching assistant for the College of Integrative Medicine and Health Services. Jenny is a licensed massage therapist, somatic educator, birth doula (CD, DONA), and certified lactation counselor (CLC).

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