Motherhood and Pregnancy in Lockdown
Covid-19 Lockdown has been an unusual experience for us all. However, as we are drawing to the end of the tunnel, how has Lockdown affected Pregnant Women and New Mothers? As a Specialist Midwife for Mental Health and Substance Misuse and also a mother of a 10-month-old a toddler and a teen, I can understand Lockdown has come with its challenges. Being pregnant and having a new born to look after in a world that is so different from the Norm is likely to have an effect.
Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum are life changing events. Normalising things like shopping for new baby items, nesting and having a baby shower to celebrate with friends and family can seem a fantasy. Zoom parties and internet shopping are not quite the same! Lockdown can feel increasingly isolating, overwhelming and quite simply boring.
The lack of uncertainty in regards to plans around the birth and postnatal care can cause feelings of anxiety or depression whilst also impacting pre-existing mental health conditions that one may have had prior to pregnancy.
Having spoken to and seen women in the antenatal and postnatal period during Lockdown one thing is common and that is a heightened feeling of Anxiety, especially around the birth. We have seen Father involvement increase over the years and men being present at the birth has many positive effects. However, many hospitals restricted Birth partners raising questions like 'will I be on my own?' or 'what if an emergency occurs, who will be with me?
Motherhood, whether it is your first or fifth time, comes with a wave of emotions. Some of these Emotions are great and the feeling many women get when they see their long awaited baby for the first time is priceless. However, with hormonal changes and pressures of Motherhood, lack of sleep and feeding issues overwhelming emotions can easily rise to the surface.
The Bible tells us to put ALL our anxieties on him, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), but what does this look like? One relevant interpretation is that we don’t need to carry everything alone. Yes, the reality of Covid-19 is real ;however we can trust that Jesus is helping us carry the load. He is our ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalms 46:1) and we can literally call out to him for help. Even if things don’t change instantly, we can ask for his peace to be with us .
One of the Pregnant women I spoke to said: “Pregnancy During Lockdown has been more of a challenge than I expected. Relinquishing Control has been one thing I have struggled with.” (Mrs T)
This time has made us all realise we are not in control and that can be daunting, Some mental health conditions deteriorate when the sense of control is threatened and this is currently a time where we cannot control even the simple day to day things. However, even though we have no idea how things will change from one week to the next, we can rest in the knowledge God is the One who has authority over all things and even though God did not send Covid 19, He will see us through. As the Scriptures put it, "He is the perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2) This can interpreted that Faith in him grows and he helps us to trust him more.
Even though this has been a difficult time for pregnant women and new mothers there is also a lot that can be taken and learnt from this experience. Some of the women I have spoken to feel like their anxiety has actually reduced as they didn’t feel the pressures of going out all the time or the added worry of people visiting them and passing on the Virus to them/new-born baby. I know that other women have felt this time has helped their partners to bond better with their babies. It has given fathers more time to be home, be present and also support their partners. For some it has made their relationships with their partners better and for some it has given them more insight into things that don’t work well.
A new Mother said: After having my first daughter I suffered Postnatal depression and anxiety, I was really worried this time around given the circumstances and the Care was not the best but I didn’t get it only baby blues in the first few days but that passed quickly! Lockdown has brought me and my Partner closer as we have 6 children between us and are always on the go with the children’s activities, he has really bonded with our son in a way that I did not expect. Unfortunately, the anxiety has never gone, I now realise how important Postnatal care is after having my baby, just be kind.
However alien these times may be there are some practical tips that can help Pregnant women and new mums navigate through this season:
Remember this to shall pass, even though it does feel like ground hog day and the new term Covid roller coaster (which is the name given to the emotional ups and downs of the lockdown) are not to be dismissed, Hope in the fact things are changing day by day.
Give your new baby lots of cuddles or prepare the baby’s things if pregnant. Human touch is at an all time low - this is one of the few people you can show physical affection to, it also releases the Love Hormone oxyctocin.
Keep moving (unless medically advised not to). Ok so you don’t need to take up powerlifting but keeping a simple exercise routine helps to break up the day and releases all those feel good hormones called endorphins, a 10 minute walk or a short stretch can really have a positive effect on mental health.
Limit social media: people will have you feeling inadequate because you did not build your baby cot from scratch Social media can be great however with so much time on our hands people are constantly posting all there new hobbies which can make one feel inadequate.
Keep an easy routine/List for the day, don’t set yourself up with unattainable tasks your routine or list can be as short as get showered today and hang out washing. This is just to keep you from getting in a funk by keeping the plan short and simple your able to complete it and not feel added stress
Prayer/Journal. Prayer should always be our go to in every season but now is a time to really lean in and commune with God make it fun, informal or even do a prayer walk where u spend time talking with God, Prayer even for an unbeliever can be a helpful tool. Journaling can be good as it gets you to lay down your thoughts feelings and move forward day by day, when this season is over you can look back and see how far you have come and that God really does give us strength for the journey.