Challenges a new mum faces during the pandemic and how to thrive mentally

For a new mum, having a baby during the pandemic presents a new set of challenges and yet she must learn how to ensure that her mental health thrives. For example, without the typical emotional or physical support from loved ones, it has been a strange and unprecedented foray into parenthood.

Increased Concerns by Parents
According to research conducted by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Foundation; Parental loneliness has dramatically increased during the pandemic from 38 per cent to 63 per cent. This is attributed to a large extent because parents have been cut off from friends and family.

In addition to the normal concerns of becoming a new parent, many new mums are worried about getting the virus or the newborn getting the virus. In addition, unlike any other time, new parents who need support for their mental health are not able to get the regular support they need. 

Sarah, a mum, shares that she has missed getting her baby weighed since she gave birth during the lockdown. This is because the regular visits to the paediatrician for well-baby checks have not been happening. This new mum adds this to her list of worries, for example, she worries whether her baby is in the correct percentile or not. She feels that all she and her spouse can do is to weigh the baby at home and “guess” that he is growing well.

Most doctors and clinics have guidelines in place to ensure safety for their patients and health care providers. It is important not to put off seeking medical advice if you have concerns about your baby’s health during the pandemic. Click To Tweet

New Parents and Mental Health During the Pandemic 
The most challenging aspect of the pandemic has been the effect on new parents mental health. Anxiety and depression amongst expectant and new mums are at an all-time high. 

Mums are trying to wade through this period by using all the technology available today.  Starting with virtual naming ceremonies, to having video calls with friends and family.  There has also been an increase in virtual mummy meet-ups and online classes. 

Several online antenatal, baby and toddler classes have been popping up online. Many of them are being hosted on Facebook and YouTube allowing parents to get information about how to care for themselves and their babies. All of these substitutes to physical contact can certainly help a new mum and her mental health is positive. 

The UK Parliament also shares that the Coronavirus is having a huge impact on families. The Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP shared that “The Petitions Committee has seen unprecedented levels of engagement on maternal mental health, childcare and maternity leave”. 

A new mother who shared that she is isolated with her baby and she has not been able to seek support for postnatal depression, as she would have done if there was no lockdown. For her, she shared that as a result, her mental health has gotten worse. Lastly, she is concerned about going back to work without the time to fully recover. 

The very specific challenges and isolation that new parents have experienced as a result of Covid-19 have very likely had a very serious impact on parental mental health.

Other Effects on New Parents 

During pre-pandemic life, a lot of people were surrounded by a wide, loving and vibrant tribe of people. Without them, gaping holes of loneliness might open up for many people. For a new mum, working from home; extended maternity leave; not having people around to support, and caring for a baby 24/7 can certainly have a negative effect on their mental health. 

Mum rage is also on the increase
As shared by Laura Markham, PhD, a clinical psychologist, “We’re asking all parents, but it’s especially moms on the front lines, to try to do 24/7 child care without a break at the same time that they’re trying to often hold down a job,” She says are we surprised that there is an increase in Mum rage? It is difficult to manage it all without any outlet. It is therefore clear that a new mum needs a lot of support; during this delicate time to ensure her mental health thrives. Some Upside to Being a Parent During the Pandemic 

Midwives say that the imposed lockdown rules have had some surprisingly positive results. On the postpartum wards, mums are healing more quickly and babies are more content. In addition, women who choose to breastfeed are able to have the time to establish feeding; away from the usual constant stream of visitors.

On the other hand, the months spent in isolation have also proved to offer such a dedicated time; which allows parents to form a close bond to their baby. This generation of babies and toddlers may be the most deeply and securely attached to their parents. Certainly, this can be seen as one of the upsides of this period. 

For other mums, they share that their husbands have had the rare opportunity to be at home with their new baby during the lockdown. This has afforded several fathers the opportunity to connect with their babies in a way that they would not have when things were more ‘normal’. This certainly can be a needed boost to a new mum and her mental health by having the support of a loving partner. 

According to research, most parents (63 per cent) report that they have been able to spend more quality time with their child over the period of the COVID-19 pandemic to date. The vast majority of these parents (83 per cent) say that they are likely to continue to spend more quality time with their child in the future.

In addition, 44 per cent of parents think that their child’s brain and mind development will be better due to the pandemic, as a result of an increase in the time spent learning, playing and talking (65 per cent) with their child.

Getting Support for your Mental Health During the Pandemic 
How to Help New Parents 

This is the time to check in on new parents. Make sure to pay attention to what the new parent talks about. Do they talk about the wonder and excitement of watching their baby grow? or is the conversation mostly filled with tears, emotional pain, or concerns?

Ask yourself after you talk to a new parent, are you concerned for their well-being or concerned they might harm themselves or their baby? This is a time to trust your instinct and then offer help. For example, this could be by offering a listening and encouraging ear. Furthermore, you can share free resources, or find them a professional they can speak to. 

While you might not be able to visit and hold their baby while they sleep or take a bath you can still help. You can offer to buy their groceries and drop them off at their door or just send encouraging messages. You can also offer a virtual hangout session or video call to share the excitement of their baby and hear all about their new life as parents.

For all new mums and parents, there is nothing to feel ashamed or guilty about. Having a baby during normal times can have an effect on mental health; during these times you must be even more aware of how you are feeling. Feel free to reach out and ask for help and to get the support you need.

How to care for your baby if you have Coronavirus
It is important that all new mums must wash their hands before and after touching their baby and keeps all surfaces clean. Mothers with symptoms of COVID-19 are advised to wear a mask, during any contact with the baby. 

Mothers are advised to wear a facemask during childbirth; as this will help to stop the spread of the virus to their baby or others during delivery. 

During the birth hospitalization, the mother with confirmed COVID-19 should maintain a reasonable distance from her baby when possible. When a mother provides hands-on care to her newborn, she should wear a mask and wash her hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before holding or caring for your newborn. 
Current reports suggest that the risk of a baby getting COVID-19 does not change based on whether the baby stays in the mother’s room or in a separate room. 

The CDC suggests that the coronavirus cannot be transmitted through breast milk. However, they stress that there is limited data about the virus. 

Additionally, the CDC currently recommends that breastfeeding mothers with suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19; should consider letting expressed breast milk be bottle-fed to the baby by a healthy caregiver.  

Newborns of mothers who have COVID-19 are usually tested 24 hours and 48 hours after they are born. If the test is positive; your baby may get tested every 48-72 hours until there are two negative tests in a row. However, so far, very few babies born to mothers with COVID-19 test positive for the virus in the first few days.

Most newborns who tested positive for COVID-19 had mild or no symptoms and recovered. However, there are a few reports of newborns with severe COVID-19 illness. 

Children younger than two years old should not wear face masks. A face shield could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental suffocation and strangulation. Babies move around, and their movement can cause the plastic face shield to block their nose and mouth. This can cause the strap to strangle them.

It is important to note that the NCDC does not recommend the use of face shields as a substitute for masks. For more updates, visit the NCDC website for more

In general increasing hygiene should be the norm. This includes cleaning surfaces and objects that people touch a lot such as doorknobs, countertops, and cellphones. Avoid people who are sick and avoid large gathering. Always wash your hands before touching your baby. 

The reality is that unnecessary worry and an increase in anxiety levels; adversely affect a new mum’s mental health.

Contributed by Yetty Williams
Parenting Coach | Founder/CEO LagosMums
Lagosmums is a parenting and family resource for mums, parents and caregivers.

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