The current worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has changed the modus operandi of all segments of society. While some pandemic-related stressors affect nearly everyone, many especially affect women.
Purpose: To review what is known about the pandemic's effect on women's mental health, what makes them more predisposed to vulnerabilities and adverse impacts, and strategies for preventing and treating these mental health consequences in the female population during specific stages across the lifespan.
Methods: The authors performed a narrative review in combination with their observations from clinical experience in the field of women's mental health and reproductive psychiatry. Articles on women's mental health and COVID-19 up to May 30, 2020, were searched using the electronic PubMed and PsychInfo databases, as well as publications by major health entities (e.g., World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations) and press releases from prime communication outlets (e.g., National Public Radio).
Results and conclusions: Women who are pregnant, postpartum, miscarrying, or experiencing intimate partner violence are at especially high risk for developing mental health problems during the pandemic. Proactive outreach to these groups of women and enhancement of social supports could lead to prevention, early detection, and prompt treatment. Social support is a key protective factor. Similarly, parenting may be substantially more stressful during a pandemic. Gender disparities may be accentuated, particularly for employed women or single parents, as women are disproportionately responsible for the bulk of domestic tasks, including childcare and eldercare.
Keywords: COVID-19; Intimate partner violence; Pandemic; Reproductive psychiatry; women’s mental health.