During pregnancy, hormonal changes, fatigue, and even physical stress can lead to mood changes. For new mothers, it is normal to experience baby blues, which are characterized by feelings of sadness, hopeless, and mood swings.
However, the coronavirus pandemic can make pregnant women and new moms develop more serious mental health problems. Some of the mental health problems they are likely to struggle with due to COVID-19 include anxiety, depression, panic, substance abuse, or post-traumatic-stress disorder.
The risk of developing mental health problems tends to increase due to stressful and traumatic life events and uncertainties. This explains why more expectant and postpartum women are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In this article, you are going to gain insights on mental health risks for expectant and postpartum women during this pandemic. You will also learn how to cope more effectively.
Risk Factors for Psychological Distress Among Expectant and New Moms
Expectant and new moms may feel extremely worried, anxious, or stressed because they don’t know how they will cope with pregnancy or a new baby during this time. Lockdown, quarantine, and social distancing tremendously affect the psychological well-being of pregnant and new moms.
Maternal care services have been affected because more focus is being put on people with the coronavirus. The fear of contracting COVID-19, fear of losing jobs, and financial instability have aggravated symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression among these women.
Many women are avoiding prenatal care visits due to infectious concerns. To reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus, women are been encouraged to seek prenatal and postpartum care via online video call or over the phone rather than in-person.
The changes that have been introduced to prenatal care and ultrasound visits have continued to evoke fear and anxiety among pregnant women.
The prevalence of stress, depression, anxiety and substance use has also increased due to the fear of coronavirus related maternal and infant deaths arising from miscarriage and premature delivery.
Domestic violence and uncertainty about the coronavirus vaccine have also contributed to mental health problems.
Effects of Social Isolation on Pregnant and New Moms During COVID-19
Social support is critical to pregnant woman and new mothers because it helps them cope with stress effectively. However, the coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for expectant and postpartum mothers to get consistent social support.
This is because of public health measures such as physical and social distancing, quarantine, and even lockdown. With all these requirements, it means that expectant mothers will probably give birth in the absence of their loved ones, or husband.
Being physically isolated, postpartum and expectant women do not have access to the social system that would have been available to them if COVID-19 didn’t happen. Family and friends may not be available to help new mothers take care of their newborns and toddlers for fear of transmitting the virus.
Physical isolation means that new moms may not be able to take breaks, naps, or even have someone assist them with household chores. As a result, mental health issues including substance use, depression, and anxiety among expectant and new moms are on the rise.
8 Tips For Coping with Psychological Distress During COVID-19
If you are a pregnant or new mom, there is something you can do to ease symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance use, or any other mental health struggle you may be experiencing.
Some effective coping mechanisms include:
1. Seek counseling
If you are feeling depressed and/or anxious, it is important that you talk to a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Individual or group psychotherapy gives you an opportunity to talk about pressing issues that you might not be able to discuss with your family and friends.
Your therapist will help you address the various concerns you may have about pregnancy and childbirth during these coronavirus times. You will also be able to learn new coping mechanisms, and even learn how to be easy on yourself.
The good news is that you do not have to attend face-to-face therapy sessions because many therapists have embraced teletherapy, which allows you to have therapy from the comfort of your home.
2. Practice self-care
Some effective self-care tips include eating well, drinking plenty of water, taking regular walks in your neighborhood, and exercising. Exercise can boost your mood and ease your stress because it promotes the release of endorphins, which are feel good hormones.
Having adequate sleep and rest, particularly when your baby falls asleep can also promote your psychological and emotional well-being. You can also relax your mind by watching your favorite movie.
3. Limit your time on social media
It can be tempting to keep checking your phone or television for the latest updates regarding the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is important that you limit your screen time. Maybe try checking the news once a day or every other day and make sure to get your information from reputable sources.
Watching too much news, or spending too much time on Google, Facebook, or other social media platforms can elevate your symptoms of depression and anxiety. Instead, focus on connecting with your baby, and purpose to spend more time on your hobbies.
Being mindful is an exceptional way of easing anxiety and stress. Mindful meditation allows you to focus on the here and now by taking your thoughts away from the past and the future.
Teaching your brain to be mindful enables you to slow down racing thoughts and reduce negative thoughts. Therefore, it is important that you practice mindfulness for at least 10 to 20 minutes each day. YouTube has various videos on how to practice mindfulness at home and there are apps available to assist as well.
5. Listen to music
You’ve probably heard that music is food for the soul. Indeed, music therapy can help you combat stress, anxiety, PTSD, and even depression. Listening to uplifting music can help you alleviate negative emotions, regain clarity, and even energy.
If you are looking for an easy way to regulate and enhance your mood be sure to sing, play, dance or listen to your favorite music.
6. Connect with friends and family
Social support is highly critical to your emotional and psychological well-being. Therefore, it is important that you stay connected, particularly when feeling emotionally drained, or lonely.
Talking to family, friends and other expectant and postpartum mothers via video chats, or even phone calls can help you strengthen your bond from the comfort of your home. Although, they might not be able to offer you physical support, video chats, calls, and texts can boost your mood and happiness significantly.
7. Focus on prevention
Adhering to the public health guidelines such as washing hands, wearing your mask, and keeping social distance is important to your psychological well-being. You’re going to have to leave the house to run errands or go to doctors appointments so being aware of preventative measures is essential and can help reduce stress, anxiety, and fear of being exposed to the virus.
Taking medicine should be the last resort as some medication may be unsafe for your unborn or new baby. However, if your symptoms of depression, stress, or anxiety fail to subside, it is advisable that you talk to a psychiatrist or your general practitioner.
Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants or anxiolytics to help ease your depressive and anxiety symptoms.