For a study, researchers sought to report the postpartum experiences of women who gave birth during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and identify short- and long-term possibilities to enhance maternal–child health during the pandemic. In the qualitative photo-elicitation research, 30 women between 3 and 10 weeks postpartum were invited to take images of their experience as a new mother during the pandemic. Then, during virtual, hour-long interviews, 2 trained interviewers extracted components of this experience by utilizing the photographs as an anchor. The directed content analysis evaluated interview transcripts, including open coding to find significant concepts, codebook development, and codebook refining. To assure coding accuracy, half of the transcripts were team-coded. Following coding, the research team structured the data to guide the building of an explanatory model.
Fear, child care, older children, loss, solitude, and employment were recognized as significant stresses encountered by new moms exacerbated by the epidemic. Interviews also revealed critical support structures (self-care, interpersonal, and structural supports) that sometimes effectively reduce stress but were often insufficient to counteract stress and even increase stress.
Overall, the pandemic raised stress during an already stressful period for postpartum women. In addition, the findings showed the insufficiency of postpartum women’s support systems and may highlight action items for stakeholders to enhance postpartum care during the pandemic and in the future.