COVID-19: How the Pandemic Is Impacting Pregnancy and Postpartum
Updated: May 18, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted people all over the globe. While some states are slowly starting implement a phased reopening, many remain subject to mandatory shelter in place orders, as we are here in New Jersey.
Everything from social distancing to feeling “stuck” in your home can be difficult, but it can be especially taxing if you’re pregnant or you’re home with a newborn. Turning on the news certainly doesn’t help, and even getting on social media can seem overwhelming since almost everyone is talking about the pandemic.
This week, May 4th-8th has been Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. Its timing, right before Mother's Day is prudent. And his year, more than ever, it’s vital to shine a spotlight on the mental health and emotional well-being of pregnant women and new moms as we work through this new way of life.
The pandemic is amplifying the necessity for mental health awareness. Let’s take a look at what is different this year, and what you can do to find some peace.
Extra Stress in a New Situation
Whether you’re expecting a baby or you recently gave birth, you’ve already probably got a lot of stress weighing on your mind. If you’re pregnant, you might be wondering what your hospital experience will be like in the wake of this pandemic.
Your family may not be able to visit while you’re in the hospital. In some cases, your spouse or partner may not even be able to be in the room with you. What is typically a joyous celebration of family and friends stopping by can’t happen right now. Also, when you get your new baby home, self-isolation may prevent anyone from coming over to see your new bundle.
That can be both stressful and emotionally painful for a new mom. Not only does it prevent you from fully sharing your baby with those you love, but it can also make it feel like you don’t have any support or help.
Added Worry & Social Distancing Disruptions
If you have young children at home already, this season of life can also be incredibly stressful. Everyday tasks and errands have now become a big deal. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store might now feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t have any other choice but to bring your child.
Before, things like shopping could have been a social outlet for you, and a way to escape the daily routine. Now, going out for the essentials is a worry and a stress trigger.
What Can You Do?
The following are some practical tips to help you maintain your mental wellness during this time. If you are feeling anxious or stressed or like you just need a time out to yourself, consider these:
Follow a normal daily routine as close as possible.
Don't forget to move. Exercise in any form (walking, biking or jogging) is good for the body and good for the mind.
Pick up a new hobby. Bonus points if the hobby contributes to the relief efforts in some way.
Remember that sleep hygiene is of paramount importance. Aim for 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. And if you have a newborn keeping you up, work out a schedule that allows you to get some uninterrupted sleep a couple of nights each week. This is possible, even if you are breastfeeding. Consult with a lactation consultant for tips regarding this tricky but possible situation. And also consult with your child's pediatrician.
Eat a balanced diet. Being conscious of your diet is important. It is tempting to indulge in excess sweets or alcohol to endure this time. But these habits can backfire on us and have unwanted impacts on our mental wellness.
Practice physical distancing, NOT social distancing. Thanks to technology, that’s not difficult to do. If you’re missing your family or friends during this critical time of your life, host Zoom calls or FaceTime chats. Being able to see each other can be much more impactful than phone conversations. Plus, simple interactions like these can help to remind you that you do have support.
Identify patterns in your mood during the week. Track them for a couple of weeks and you will likely see a pattern emerge. Are certain days of the week harder for you? This can be valuable information to have when you feel your mood shift and you can shake it off by using the above mentioned coping skills once you realize this is a patter and it too shall pass.
Reframe negative thoughts as they come. A more common negative thought right now is that the pandemic will last forever and never end. Fight this thought with logic and reason. Eventually, this pandemic will end, and things will slowly start to go back to a semblance of “normal.” While we all might need to adjust to a new way of living, it’s essential to keep in mind that these restrictions aren’t forever.
Finally, limiting your consumption of social media and news. Both are filled with negativity and often misinformation, with biases on both sides of the political aisle. Stay informed with the latest updates but do so in small doses.
Practicing self-care and paying attention to your mental health is more crucial than ever. Ask your partner for help and support when you need it, and be sure to take some time for yourself each day, whether you’re pregnant or you have a newborn. Finally, connect with others in as many ways as possible! .
Your mental health should be a top priority as you go through your pregnancy, or even after your baby is born. Although we’re going through uncertain, stressful times, taking care of yourself and finding ways to de-stress and relax can help you to make the most out of the situation until it finally comes to an end.
Please feel free to contact me for support. I offer online therapy and want to help. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
To learn more about how counseling can help you in general during the postpartum weeks and months, please click here.
BRINGING BABY HOME: A NEW PARENT WORKSHOP IS GOING VIRTUAL!!!! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!