As we adjust to life in a pandemic, it's still easy to feel anxious and even depressed because of the continuing uncertainty and stay-at-home mandates. Humans are social by nature, and when there’s no regular social contact, our mental health suffers.
Pregnant women and new moms face even more difficulty. Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the University of North Carolina Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, explains how physical distancing can make the risk of maternal mental health complications greater since social support is so vital. Meltzer-Brody shares that, "High levels of stress can have an adverse outcome on a woman's ability to navigate this time.”
Plus, Dr. Diana Lynn Barnes, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of the Center for Postpartum Health, reveals that women whose postpartum depression (PPD) is not treated have a 75% risk of developing it again in the future. This is why it’s best to treat any condition early, and the good news is, there are ways to do so — whether you’re a new mom or have recently welcomed a new addition to your family.
Talking about difficult issues and feelings isn’t always easy to do with family or friends. And therapy provides an outlet to discuss things you might not usually talk about, work through problems, learn techniques to help cope, and find ways to start feeling like yourself again.
One way moms can do this, says Dr. Mariea Snell, assistant professor at Maryville University’s online MSN program, is to try telehealth services — a solution uniquely suited to new moms. “This allows a mother to talk to her health care provider about anything that’s going on,” Dr. Snell told Glamour Magazine, “without even having to get out of her pajamas, let alone packing up a newborn baby.” This way, you’re more likely to receive the care you need, even in the middle of a pandemic.
There are plenty of tools available to digitally connect via video chat with family and friends. Phone calls are good, but seeing faces on video helps strengthen that connection with others from the safety of your home, using your mobile phone, tablet, or computer.
Online groups also help you connect with other mothers going through the same issues, especially during this time of social distancing. Ask friends or your doctor about groups they can recommend.
Antidepressants may be prescribed to help manage your PPD. These are typically safe to use while breastfeeding, but your doctor will review your individual case before prescribing any medications. If you don’t find relief in this, your doctor may change your dosage or the type of medication to find what works best for you.
You’ve already made changes during your pregnancy, but there are other important lifestyle changes you should consider as a new mom. The following tips may be especially helpful if you’re suffering from PPD.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. Eat well, get adequate rest, and include physical activity in your daily routine. Start exercising when your physician gives you the green light, as it releases endorphins that combat stress and can boost your mood.
- Set realistic expectations. You’re recovering and having to be a mother at the same time. So don’t pressure yourself to do everything all at once. Do what you can and leave the rest for another time.
- Make time for yourself. Taking care of your baby includes taking care of yourself. Do something you enjoy, like crafting, puzzles, or watching movies.
- Meditate. It reduces stress and its added effects on PPD. There are lots of great programs available online, offering live sessions to help you manage stress and practice mindful meditation and self-care.
Taking care of your emotional needs and adapting to new ways to stay socially connected can not only help you stay calm and happier, it can also reduce unnecessary pressure on your immune system. Remember: You’re a resilient, strong, and adaptable individual. You will get through this, and some kind of normalcy will eventually return.
JBozarth is a part-time writer and a full-time mom to three beautiful girls. Having suffered and survived PDD after her second time giving birth, she likes writing about the experience to help out other moms who may be experiencing the same challenges. When she's not braiding hair or typing up a storm, she enjoys baking and crafts.