The Isolation Of New Motherhood Has Been Exacerbated By COVID-19
The first few weeks of motherhood challenged my mental health more quickly than I ever imagined it would. Less than 24 hours after delivery I was in my hospital room alone crying uncontrollably. I’m sure that hormone fluctuations had a lot to do with it, but I also felt completely alone. At the time, I reasoned that my three-day hospital stay was to blame, but when I went home, things weren’t much different.
Despite having loved ones around who were ready to help, I still felt like I was in this bubble where no one could reach me. The days were long. The nights were longer. And there seemed to be no real end in sight. While I recognized that many of my loved ones had been in my shoes before, there was still a part of me that felt like no one really understood what I was going through. I didn’t even exactly comprehend what was happening to me. What eventually helped pull me out of my slump were constant visits from my parents and a couple of very persistent girlfriends, recognizing when I needed to get out of the house, and joining a mommy meet-up group. Sadly, not many of these outlets are an option for moms who are birthing babies in this midst of the coronavirus pandemic, thus making moms more susceptible to emotional complications after birth such as postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
To protect moms, newborns, and to quell the spread of the virus, hospitals are barring visitors in their maternity wards and many of those who are allowing patient visitors have enacted stringent guidelines. Postpartum life at home isn’t much different as most state governments have some sort of stay-at-home order in place. Under normal circumstances, new moms worry about their newborns being exposed to illness-causing germs by visitors, but as the threat of a potentially-deadly airborne virus looms in the background, this terror is magnified. And so, they play it safe and self-isolate, they deny visitors, And they don’t go out either for fear of bringing something home to their infants. And while these precautions guarantee the physical safety of both mom and baby, the mental and emotional implications can be crippling.
“It’s the perfect storm because everything that we tell postpartum women to do, like connect to other people, get out of the house, establish a routine, they can’t do that,” Rebecca Weinberg, a psychologist at the Alexis Joy D’Achille Center for Perinatal Mental Health at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh told Today Parents. “It really does set women up to have a difficult time.”
According to maternal mental health experts, it’s also on the family and loved ones of new mothers to find creative ways to keep new moms lifted while social distancing. Recommendations include frequent calling and video conferencing and forwarding resources that can be of assistance. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, many companies are offering virtual support initiatives to new moms and moms-to-be. For example, Baby Dove partnered with Postpartum Support International, providing funding for virtual support groups, helplines, and text services designed to help women manage postpartum stress and isolation.
“Mothers who have the help of people they trust feel more self-esteem, confidence as a parent, and struggle less to access information that helps them problem-solve for their bundle of joy,” Dr. Darcia F. Navarez explained in her op-ed for Psychology Today.
What new moms need more than anything is social support and we can all do our part.
To learn more about Postpartum International’s virtual offerings, click here.