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.
In this two-part series, I explore the unique challenges of pregnancy and childbirth amid COVID-19 and how women can prioritize their mental health at this difficult time.
Pregnancy and childbirth are challenging under normal circumstances, but especially right now as shifting healthcare policies and social distancing measures have turned even the most routine checkup into anything but, well…routine.
Add on the weight of job losses or salary cutbacks and fears around getting sick and it’s understandable why there are heightened concerns around mental health in the prenatal community.
WHAT’S CHANGED FOR PREGNANT WOMEN DURING COVID?
There are many things out of the ordinary right now, but the most obvious changes for expectant mothers are logistical.
Hospitals and clinics have adapted their policies to fit the pandemic, including limiting the number of people allowed during prenatal visits and inside the delivery room. Doctors and midwives have, in some cases, been asking their patients to skip routine check-ups or replace them with virtual appointments to minimize contact.
When it comes to blood tests, ultrasounds and other appointments that can’t be done via tele-medicine, women are likely to face enhanced health and safety measures at their clinic(s) — including restrictions around their movement and mandatory masks — that are beyond what they’d experience under normal circumstances.
WHAT IMPACTS CAN ALL THIS HAVE ON MENTAL HEALTH?
We’re living through a time of great uncertainty when emotions are running high. Put pregnancy on top of that and the mental health toll can be significant for expectant mothers.
COPING AMID COVID
Below are some strategies you may find effective if you or a pregnant loved one are struggling to cope amid COVID-19.
This is a challenging time to be pregnant and it’s necessary to treat your mental health as importantly as your physical health. If you find yourself struggling right now, consider the above strategies and always reach out if you need additional support.
Covid-19 and Your Mental Health: FAQS
7 Tips for Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety
The Underexplored Issue of Postpartum Anxiety
Baby Blues or Something More?
Surviving Motherhood: 5 Tips To Help Avoid Burnout
Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.