As a clinical psychologist who specializes in perinatal mental health, my heart goes out to families who are welcoming newborns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parenthood comes with many phases of adjustment, and giving birth during a pandemic can complicate that in many ways. There are many uncertainties that moms and parents face as they prepare to welcome a child into the world. We are all curious about the health of our child….”What will the baby look like?”….”What will his or her personality be?”…..and most importantly, “Will my baby be healthy?” In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is feeling a new sense of uncertainty about our health and overall well being daily. So, for a new mom, these insecurities and unknowns are very high. While it makes sense that parents giving birth during this time would have high anxiety, there are some parts parents can control.
We can engage in healthy self care; which entails taking care of our bodies, minds, emotions and relationships.
Body: We caneat healthy foods, exercise, read a good book or watch a favorite movie.
Mental and Emotional State: We can limit time spent watching stressful images on the news or social media and engage in a positive and encouraging podcast or book instead. Unfollow any social media sites that leave you feeling anxious. We may also have to adjust our expectations of the “perfect pregnancy” or “perfect delivery.” Nothing in life is perfect and expectations during a state of emergency definitely need to shift. Having realistic expectations based on CDC recommendations will help us adjust better to parenting during a pandemic. Writing down old expectations before COVID-19 and writing down new expectations during COVID-19 may be a helpful tool in putting this into perspective. This can help us manage our self talk and emotional state.
Relationships: Self care also means managing healthy relationships, by keeping in contact virtually with those relationships that are most important to us and limiting time with relationships that are stressful. We can also manage our emotions by letting others know what we need and asking for help in very specific ways. This may mean taking your friend up on her offer to grocery shop for you, or allowing someone to set up grocery delivery services for you. Say yes to those that are willing to help. Communicate clearly with your partner about your needs. You can also advocate with your healthcare provider about what your concerns and needs to feel more comfortable during this time. These are the parts that are within your control that can help you feel stable during this time of instability.
Lastly, I believe it is always helpful to manage perspective. It is very easy to get stuck in extreme thinking when anxiety is high. Remember another difficult circumstance in life that you have handled well and remind yourself that you can handle difficult things. Remember, things will not always be this way and we all have some skills at coping with difficult life circumstance.
As part of of having support network for mom’s who are adjusting to parenthood during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am offering an online support group for new mothers. This will allow you to have support from a psychologist who specializes in perinatal mental health as well as an opportunity to connect with other new mom’s who understand what you are thinking and feeling during this time. I know social supports are limited right now, so this may be a wonderful way to get some social connection that many of you may be missing. Please call me for a brief phone screen and for instructions on how to log into the virtual waiting room for the group.
360 Therapy and Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Women & Children’s Services are collaborating to provide two free telehealth support groups during this time of social distancing:
New Mom Support
Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
NICU Mom Support
Wednesday from 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.