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  • Dr. Shari-ann James

Perinatal in the age of COVID-19

A few weeks ago was Maternal Mental Health Awareness week. It's meant to emphasize public and professional awareness of emotional complications during the perinatal period. 2020 has certainly been a year like no other in our lifetime. Mothers have felt even more isolated and overwhelmed amidst the viral swirl of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Pregnancy and postpartum are an inherently vulnerable state in one's life. Mothers are already usually overprotective and hyper-vigilant of their infants. With the sudden and still ever changing landscape brought on by this novel Coronavirus, anxieties are now at unprecedented levels. From hospital restrictions on partners being present in delivery rooms, to early discharges after giving birth, mothers and providers are contending with an ever changing perinatal situation.

Individuals and families are also navigating self-isolation. How do we navigate the perinatal period while forgoing the support we may have been counting on from family, friends, doulas, and lactation support? Here are some ways that may help you, or someone you know, navigate this experience.

  • Communication with providers - It is important to have clarity of changing policies at prenatal appointment as well as policies at the hospital. For example, will some of the prenatal appointments will be conducted virtually? Will support people be allowed in the delivery room for e.g. a doula or family?

  • Grieving the loss of expectations and experiences - During this time, you may feel cheated out of the experiences you had envisioned. Whether it's a birth plan, the delivery experience, or expectations of support in the delivery room and visitors at the hospital. At home you may have to think about and make a decision whether to allow family and friends to visit. These are personal decisions, but decisions you never thought you would have to make. Recognizing these losses and allowing yourself time to grieve is important. It will allow you to move forward and make the best of this situation.

  • Your feelings are valid - It is import to recognize that you may experience different feelings and emotions during this tumultuous time. Allow yourself the space to feel the loss of expectations, as well as the joy that your baby brings to your life and your family. It is okay to feel sad for those who are hurting right now, and to feel joy and happiness for yourself and your baby.

  • Limit media time and engage in mindfulness - Limiting media intake can help with feelings of anxiety. Be mindful of the information that you are absorbing and whether or not it is affecting you. Engage in mindfulness activities or meditation or yoga. Try to establish a routine during the day, especially if you are isolating at home.

  • Maintaining connection - While people are physically disconnecting, that does not mean we need to be emotional disconnected. Maintaining contact with family and friends through video platforms can break the sense of isolation. Be open to how you may be feeling, and know that we are all in need of emotional connection.

  • Reaching out for additional support - Several mental health providers are providing tele-health services and are also trained and certified in perinatal mental health. Connect with other expecting and new moms, so you know that you are not alone. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders occurs in 1 out of every 5 mothers under normal circumstances. It is important that mothers and families are in tune to the signs and symptoms, and that mothers receive help if they are struggling. In addition, there are free online support groups (see below).

1. Postpartum Support International weekly online support meetings

Perinatal (Pregnancy & Postpartum) Mood Support Group Pregnancy Mood Support Group NICU Parents Military Moms Pregnancy and Infant Loss

2. Bloom Foundation- The mom support group

3. MomsWell Virtual Support Groups

4. Postpartum Wellness- online support group

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