We all know the saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” but what happens when your village can’t come through the front door?
This is the unique and unprecedented reality for parents bringing home newborns amid COVID-19.
Lockdown measures are keeping support systems at bay for new parents. And rather than having loved ones able to visit and help out, exhausted moms and dads are pretty much going it alone right now.
The pandemic has also suspended social gatherings and religious ceremonies, meaning everything from baby showers to baby namings, are on hold for the moment.
Lastly, physical distancing rules have decreased access to in-person care, including doctor visits, physiotherapy and lactation clinics, making it difficult for parents to get the postpartum support they need.
It’s a lot of unexpected change in a very short time.
WHAT IMPACTS CAN ALL THIS HAVE ON POSTPARTUM MENTAL HEALTH?
Caring for a newborn is demanding and delicate without the weight of a pandemic. The stress and restrictions of COVID-19 have only exacerbated these challenges.
For first-time parents especially, being isolated from loved ones and having decreased access to certain supports can breed feelings of fear for having to go through this experience alone. Add to that the pressure of protecting a fragile newborn from a global virus and it’s understandable why moms and dads may be feeling extra anxious or afraid.
Physical distancing measures can also compound feelings of loneliness, exhaustion and sadness that are already common in the weeks following childbirth. New parents may also experience feelings of disappointment that their postpartum reality bears little resemblance to their hopes and expectations for this time in their lives.
Among the biggest concern for Canadian health officials, however, is the impact long-term isolation could have on postpartum depression — a serious mental health disorder impacting approximately 15 percent of postpartum women. Symptoms of postpartum depression can vary from woman to woman, but common signs include excessive feelings of sadness, withdrawal, exhaustion, guilt and trouble bonding with the baby. Postpartum depression is not limited to first-time parents and can last for weeks or months following delivery.
COPING AMID COVID
Below are some strategies that may be helpful if you or a postpartum loved one are struggling to cope amid COVID-19.
This is a particularly challenging time to be bringing a baby into the world. If you or a loved one are finding it difficult to cope, consider the above strategies and always reach out to a therapy professional for additional support.
Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.