Download our free “Mom-full-ness” handout at the end of this article.
OK, so maybe you’re pregnant and sheltering in place for your first-ever pandemic. Or you’re full-term and working from home and could go into labor any day, and now can have only one person with you for labor support. Or, you’re a newly postpartum mama with a newborn and no hands-on help because everyone is isolating, and your worries are mounting. Here’s an equation for you:
Pandemic + Isolation + Pregnant / Postpartum Mom = breeding ground for mental health suffering
Pregnant and postpartum mamas, you are at an even higher risk of mental health challenges compared to the general public. How do we manage anxiety and depression during this unprecedented time? How do we care for ourselves while pregnant or postpartum in a pandemic? Here are five tips for how to manage the genuine anxieties surrounding us at this moment in the COVID-19 virus progression:
1. Don’t “should” all over yourself.
There is no “should.” There are feelings, and all feelings are OK. Everyone is feeling some level of worry, anxiety, and overwhelm, at least part of the time. One of our Baby+Co RNs said to me, “Emotions are meant to move.” If we allow them to bubble up as needed and flow through us, the feelings will come and go, and we can find relief, either through the feelings moving on their own or through additional coping strategies.
2. Limit *where* you get your news and set some rules around your news and social media consumption.
Subscribe to a curated newsletter from a trustworthy news source. This will be delivered to your inbox, so you don’t have to search through the noise, and you can trust the information you’re receiving. Beyond a curated news source, set some rules for yourself. Don’t scroll through your feeds after dinner; only check in on the news in the morning and evening. Check Facebook once a day, and turn off all notifications, so you aren’t inundated. Find some guidelines that give you the information and social media connections you need or want but set some boundaries, so you don’t get flooded with overwhelm and repetitive information.
3. Prioritize the basics:
- Create a daily rhythm that works for you right now.
- Nourish your body with wholesome food.
- Get sufficient sleep.
- Move your body.
- Shower and get dressed (coziest clothes for postpartum for sure!)
- Get outside every day.
- Talk to a loved one on the phone or video chat.
- Do something you love.
4. Connect with other pregnant or postpartum women.
Group prenatal visits and new mom groups aren’t meeting right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect. For April and May, in collaboration with Vanderbilt Health, Baby+Company is now offering virtual support groups throughout the week for pregnant women, postpartum women, and general health and wellness. These are offered on the Zoom meeting platform, are free, and open to all! Check out our Eventbrite to find a group that works for you. You can also search Facebook for groups of other pregnant people or moms in your local area, or around shared interests. Mental health services are also available via telehealth. Ready Nest Counseling is hosting online groups for pregnancy loss and postpartum support, and Symmetry Counseling always has telehealth options for individual therapy.
5. Practice Mindfulness Meditation
If there was ever a time to give meditation a try, it’s now, right? It’s called practice, so don’t give yourself grace, and don’t expect perfection. Download an app like Headspace or Calm, or for pregnancy and labor, try this Rainbow Relaxation from The Mongan Method, available as a $12 download. Or ditch the apps and recordings and instead practice a common “box breathing” technique:
- Sit in a comfortable, supported position;
- Close your eyes if that feels right;
- Breathe in for four counts;
- Hold the breath for four counts;
- Exhale for four counts;
- Hold the breath for four counts.
Follow this rhythm 4 to 6 times, and notice how you feel.
Level up and go stand out in the sunshine while you do it.
When to talk to a healthcare provider
Your maternity care provider and mental health practitioners are available to you by phone and telehealth right now, and some in-person visits are available depending on needs. Talk to your healthcare provider if:
- You can’t sleep after trying home remedies like meditation, warm tea, and quiet time
- Invasive thoughts are affecting your ability to function
- You cannot care for yourself and / or your baby
- You have thoughts of harming yourself or others
- You need a referral for counseling or therapy services
- You have physical health concerns related to you or your baby
- You need support in another way not listed here
For specific coping strategies in times of normal or intensified stress, download Baby+Company’s Mom-full-ness handout You’ll learn breathing techniques, a simple gratitude practice, and other ideas for self-care.
Heather Price is an integral part of the Baby+Company Nashville education team. Formerly a high school English teacher and district-wide mentor for a Middle Tennessee public school system, she is now a trained childbirth educator and labor doula. She completed her childbirth educator training with the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) and is certified as an ICCE. She has also recently become a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. Teaching and learning course through her veins, and she is an enthusiastic and compassionate facilitator in the classroom. A most useful part of her training so far has been that of preparing for, birthing, and mothering her own two little ones.