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9 Tips From Mental Health Experts For Anxious Pregnant & New Moms In COVID Times

Posted: April 6, 2020

If you are a new mom, or pregnant during this lockdown period, you might have valid fears about many things, including infection and access to healthcare.

It is difficult to describe how much things have changed in the past few weeks as we globally respond to the outbreak. The whole world is engulfed in anxiety and uncertainty. This can be particularly challenging for pregnant women and mothers of very young children, who are already navigating a challenging phase of their lives.

When the world presents new threats and challenges, normal worries can grow into fear and anxiety. Uncertainties revolving around the birth process and child care can lead to a plethora of emotions in pregnant women and new mothers.

Let us look at the ways which can help mothers to cope and combat this phase of uncertainty and empower them with effective coping strategies.

Keep an anxiety hour

With the introduction of many new concepts like ‘social distancing’, and novelty of the virus, fear is expected to be a dominant emotion. Fear related to getting infected, its effects on baby and baby’s care is expected. However, mostly fear shows up as anxiety, frustration and anger.

  • Being conscious and aware of your own underlying emotions can be the first step in dealing with the uncomfortable emotions that show up on the surface.
  • Once you are aware of your underlying emotions, the next step would be to accept and acknowledge them. Awareness can help to act purposefully and in solidarity. It will help you in reaching out to reliable and adequate resources. It will help you to communicate to others these emotions effectively, and eventually you will be able to deal with these emotions.
  • Keep an anxiety hour. Keep all your anxieties reserved to be thought only during that hour to avoid it being interfered in your other activities. Whenever you notice your mind filling up with worrying thoughts, remind yourself to save it for that hour and try to focus on your activity at hand.

Work around a routine

Because of social distancing, there can be a huge amount of time to fill up, which can further act as a fertile ground for all worries. Structuring helps in putting the day in order and reducing the unsettling feeling.

  • While setting a routine, start with a fixed wake up and sleep time.
  • Be more vigilant about your ME-time and claim it unapologetically, especially when family members are around.
  • Include them in planning the family’s routine so they can volunteer to do tasks rather than being delegated.
  • Stick to old routines for babies and toddlers, which can bring them comfort during these unsettling times.
  • Simulate a play area indoors to match their playground time or arrange a virtual ‘playtime with grandparents’.

Balancing the virtual world

Social Media is a breeding ground of all anxieties.

  • While it is important to keep up to date with the progress of Covid-19, restricting the time you spend watching the news will also curb your overwhelming fears and anxieties.
  • Trust only certain resources which can be certain reliable newspapers, websites, your trusted family doctor or your gynaecologist and paediatrician.
  • For pregnant women and new mothers, who may already be feeling isolated, online support can be very beneficial.
  • Stay connected with your family and friends virtually and exchange tips and strategies for coping during the lockdown. Play games with each other online or share activities that are fun and joyful. Arrange for important ceremonies like baby shower etc virtually. While other options of entertainment and socialising are not accessible to you during the lockdown, social media and the internet can also be used to regain and maintain connections. 

Mindful about your feelings

During this time of fear and uncertainty, it can feel so empowering to tune into yourself and get mindful about what you want to feel with your baby at home. Shifting thoughts of fear and anxiety into an opportunity to focus on what you want to feel and invite into your sacred space. Ask yourself:

  • How do you want to feel? What does it look like?
  • How do you want to remember this time?
  • How do you want your home to feel?
  • What is most important for you?

Include playtime with your baby as a mindful activity, absorb yourself in their world the way they do. Or if you get interrupted by your baby’s demands while doing a mindfulness exercise, embrace it as an extension of your practice and attend to them as mindfully as possible.

Replace “I Should” With “I Am”

During challenging times like these, it’s important to try and let go of the “I should” and instead focus on the “I am.”

Thinking less about what we should be doing — as defined by outside expectations and external pressures — and instead focusing on all that we are doing in each moment can lead to a more healthy state of mind. You can try reframing thoughts like this:

  • I should feel happy because my baby is here, but I’m worried all the time.
    I am caring for my baby in the best possible way and I am allowed to feel worried.
  • I should not go to the paediatrician because I will risk exposing my baby to illness.
    I am listening to my paediatrician’s recommendations and trusting my instinct as a parent.
  • I should be trying to sleep when my baby sleeps.
    I am doing the best I can to get rest whenever I am able to.
  • I should write thank you notes and order baby announcements and keep up with all of the things in my household.
    I am responsible today to take care of myself and my baby, and I am doing a great job.
  • I should reach out to family and friends to share updates about my baby.
    I am taking care of myself and my baby right now, and everything else can wait.

Seek help

There may be times when you may get overwhelmed and may not be able to manage your emotions. In those situations, talk to someone you trust and discuss the option of getting professional help. It is ‘ok’ to seek help for becoming a mentally healthy parent. 

Access to medical care

At the outset it’s important to talk to your doctor for any medical information regarding antenatal care and care of your baby during COVID-19 outbreak. Data is constantly changing and everyday we’re learning something new. So don’t rely on unverified sources for health information.

  • Based on the very few number of cases being reported worldwide, it seems that risks in both pregnant women and young children are low.
  • Continue with routine antenatal care unless advised otherwise by your doctor.
  • Call ahead and enquire about clinic’s opening hours for antenatal visits or baby’s immunisation etc.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions and be prepared for delivery during this time, revisit your birthing plan and keep your medical files ready.
  • Take routine care of your baby just as you would to prevent it from other infections.
  • Continue breastfeeding as usual as it’s perfectly safe and will help to increase the immunity of your baby.
  • If you suspect that you or your baby is infected then ensure you seek medical help immediately.

There may be some anxiety in accessing timely medical care in case of emergencies; speak to your doctor in advance and make a plan to determine which would be the closest hospital to reach in a hurry. Find out if they will be available by phone during an emergency or if they have any alternate numbers for duty doctors. If you don’t have access to your own vehicle, identify a friend or neighbour who is willing to drive you if the need arises. Get a pass from your hospital in advance during the routine antenatal or neonatal visits to use during emergencies, otherwise carry your files with you to show to the police in case you are stopped. They have been advised to accommodate genuine emergencies and access to essential services.

More resources

Following are some reliable resources on coping with Corona during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

Q&A on COVID-19, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, WHO

Coronavirus infection and pregnancy, Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, UK

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding FAQs, Centre for Disease Control, US

Helplines

NIMHANS Perinatal Mental Health Helpline: 8105711277

icall helpline for psychosocial support: 022-25521111

Domestic violence helpline: 080-25492781/82/93

Co-author: Poornima Mahindru, Clinical Psychologist and Perinatal Fellow at The Green Oak Initiative. I am a clinical psychologist with a keen interest in mental health and well being across the life span beginning with maternal mental health. I believe in early intervention and wish to work towards creating an accepting community for people undergoing mental health challenges.

Our team at The Green Oak Initiative is working on improving emotional wellbeing of women during pregnancy and postpartum. If you fall in this category, please help us understanding your needs by filling out this brief anonymous and confidential survey, that will only take 2 minutes of your time and doesn’t ask for any personal details. 

Image source: pixabay

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I'm a Psychiatrist & Family Psychotherapist specialising in maternal mental health and attachment disorders. Apart

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