We know that mental health is a serious concern for pregnant and postpartum people during this pandemic. Common stressors include: illness from COVID-19, concerns about not having support people at their birth, asymptomatic infection, and exposure to COVID-19, financial stressors, and lack of access to resources/drop-ins/support. Our suggestion? Try to express your concerns openly with your care provider so they can hear and assist you - they have knowledge and resources that can really help. Leaning on family and friends can also be a big support and give you some peace of mind.
The postpartum period is a challenging time due to lack of sleep, breastfeeding/chestfeeding challenges, recovering physically from birth, processing both positive and negative feelings about your birth, trying to do too much, and struggling to meet the real or imagined expectations of others or yourself. Adding in a pandemic? That complicates things even further due to lack of support & resources! Our suggestion? Ask your midwife or care provider for help accessing breastfeeding/chestfeeding support, prenatal classes, counselling to manage anxiety and/or depression, or seek assistance from close friends, family, or postpartum doulas.
We often think of “postpartum depression” when we think about those who may struggle after having a baby. But did you know that postpartum anxiety is also very common? The truth is, most of us struggle at some point with the huge transition of adding a baby to the family, and you are not alone if you feel down. Our suggestion? Be aware of your feelings as much as possible. Do you feel your heart racing? Sick to your stomach? No appetite? Unable to sleep no matter how hard you try? Do you cry often? Do you feel like you can’t see the bright side of things? Do you feel alone? Do you feel very irritable, especially toward your partner? These may all be signs of postpartum mood conditions, or they may be isolated feelings. Talk to your care provider so they are aware. If you can identify what you are feeling, they will be more likely to be able to help.
In many cultures around the world, new parents are embraced by a community who helps them figure out how to cope with a new baby. In North America, we tend to go it alone. This monumental event in your life was not meant to be dealt with by yourself. Our suggestion? While the pandemic makes it more challenging, you can still create your own community - even virtually. A FaceTime or Zoom date, phone call appointment, or a socially distanced outing with a friend or family member can do wonders to boost your mood and help you feel loved and supported. Couple this with a warm drink or a meal if you can manage it and you’ve got a great recipe for self-care.
Speaking of self-care, this is one of the most important aspects of surviving the postpartum period. Easier said than done, we know. Sometimes just putting pants on is a win for many postpartum parents - we hear you. Our suggestion? Go to the basic building blocks of wellness and do what you can. Think: “Have I been eating today?” Many parents forget to eat and have low blood sugar, which can influence your energy and mood. “Have I gone for a walk or moved my body?” Consider gentle yoga, stretching, a walk around the block... we aren’t talking about a marathon! “How much have I slept today? Can I squeeze in a nap?” “Have I spent any time today without a baby on me or have I had time to myself?” Can you have a bath, a hot cup of tea by yourself, or watch a tv show or movies alone? Is there a hobby you enjoy that you can sneak in some time with? These things go a long way toward keeping parents feeling well.
Nicole Pichette, Registered Midwife at Ottawa South Midwives
Kim Farrell, BSc Nursing, BHSc Midwifery