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BACKGROUND: Few studies have evaluated postnatal anxiety and posttraumatic stress (PTS) before and during the Covid-19 pandemic using comparable data across time. We used data from two national maternity surveys in England to explore the impact of the pandemic on prevalence and risk factors for postnatal anxiety and PTS. METHODS: Analysis was conducted using population-based surveys carried out in 2018 (n = 4509) and 2020 (n = 4611). Weighted prevalence estimates for postnatal anxiety and PTS were compared across surveys. Adjusted risk ratios (aRR) were estimated for the association between risk factors and postnatal anxiety and PTS. FINDINGS: Prevalence of postnatal anxiety increased from 13.7 % in 2018 to 15.1 % in 2020 (+1.4 %(95%CI:-0.4-3.1)). Prevalence of postnatal PTS increased from 9.7 % in 2018 to 11.5 % in 2020 (+1.8 %(95%CI:0.3-3.4)), due to an increase in PTS related to birth trauma from 2.5 % to 4.3 % (+1.8 %(95%CI:0.9-2.6); there was no increase in PTS related to non-birth trauma. Younger age (aRR = 1.31-1.51), being born in the UK (aRR = 1.29-1.59), long-term physical or mental health problem(s) (aRR = 1.27-1.94), and antenatal anxiety (aRR = 1.97-2.22) were associated with increased risk of postnatal anxiety and PTS before and during the pandemic, whereas higher satisfaction with birth (aRR = 0.92-0.94) and social support (aRR = 0.81-0.82) were associated with decreased risk. INTERPRETATION: Prevalence of postnatal PTS was significantly higher during the pandemic, compared to before the pandemic, due to an increase in PTS related to birth trauma. Prevalence of postnatal anxiety was not significantly higher during the pandemic. Risk factors for postnatal anxiety and PTS were similar before and during the pandemic.

Original publication




Journal article


J Affect Disord

Publication Date





122 - 136


Birth trauma, Pandemic, Postnatal anxiety, Postnatal posttraumatic stress