Pregnancy and Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought many additional challenges for many of us women navigating pregnancy and adjusting to postpartum life at home with a new baby. As the United States continues to combat Covid, we are experiencing challenges we never, ever thought we could have imagined in our wildest dreams. From serious illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job to remote learning and social isolation…the list goes on and on. We have all had to change our definition of normalcy in day to day life. Pregnant and new mothers face even more concerns, including worry about contracting Covid themselves and how it might impact their babies. Additional concerns for pregnant and new mothers is the loss of typical social support. Whether it be a local La Leche League meeting, a breastfeeding support group at a hospital or midwifery clinic, baby sensory classes or a mom and baby music class, new moms have had to learn to connect virtually with other moms and babies. Thanks to amazing advances with technology, pregnant and new moms have the luxury of joining a Zoom or Google Meet with fellow parents and parents to be that they may not have had even 5 years ago. Luckily, virtual support groups are abundant and with advances of Zoom and Google Meet. Prenatal yoga classes, childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes, parenting classes have flooded social media and the internet. Gone are the days of neighbors or friends stopping by a new mother’s home to visit the new baby, help out with household chores, or watch baby so mom can nap. Creativity from others takes the spotlight as new moms navigate pregnancy and postpartum. One local mom we interviewed told us there are three new babies in her neighborhood. “We have a doorbell dash thing going on in our cul-de-sac. Back in March and April, three of us gave birth and didn’t have the visitors or help we normally would have due to Covid-19. A group of other neighbors got together and prepared us potluck style meals and goodie bags and would leave them on our doorsteps with cute notes, ring the doorbell and dash. It was so great to have a hot meal left at the door and I didn’t have to worry about cooking that night. One day a special neighbor left us all soft socks that literally massaged our feet, bath bombs and a candle with a note to remember self care. It put a smile on all of our faces.

We have spoken with several new moms about mother and baby support groups going virtual. The responses varied in many ways, however they all responded with the common theme of keeping everyone safe and stressed how important it is to stay home during these uncertain times, for the safety of their babies and others.  Here are some responses we received regarding virtual birthing, breastfeeding, mom and baby classes:

I love my virtual breastfeeding support class! Not only have I connected with nursing moms from across the country, but I also love sitting on my couch in my pajamas and being comfy cozy with my daughter. Especially on rainy days.

I am so grateful to have an online birthing class. When my sister was pregnant, it was so difficult for her and her husband to attend the in-person birthing class at the hospital. Her husband had to leave work early and it added stress. My partner and I can participate in the online birthing class with the others or log in and watch at a later time if the timing isn’t convenient for us. I am thankful for this!

I prefer meeting in person with others rather than attending an online breastfeeding support class. I am happy to see other moms and their babies online, but really miss the social interaction. With my first baby, I made lifelong friendships with other moms in my local group. We’d have coffee after class and playdates with our children. After 4 years, I still am connected with these friends I made in class and our babies have grown up together. Virtual breastfeeding support classes don’t allow for this type of connection with other moms. So, because of that, I prefer in-person groups.”

I am a first time mom and my lactation consultant convinced me to join an online support group that she moderated. I was hesitant at first, I have never used Zoom before and didn’t want to deal with it all. I became depressed during my pregnancy. While I was actively trying to get pregnant, I missed the social life that my friends still had when I became pregnant. I was the first in our little group to become pregnant and was often too tired to join them on outings, especially at night. My depression spiraled when the pandemic hit. I was at an all time low in May and felt beyond isolated, even with the support of my husband and family. I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy and no one could visit in person. I struggled with producing milk and being able to nurse my baby, due to the stress of the depression that I was already experiencing. I had to call my lactation consultant for help after desperately trying to get a meeting with her, even with a mask on it wasn’t possible. After finally being convinced to join the online Zoom group (with my camera off), I started to see that I was not alone. Luckily, it was small group. I finally got the courage to show my face and share my experiences. In some ways, this virtual breastfeeding support group became more of a therapy support group than it was for breastfeeding! I now look forward to it and my mental health has really improved.

I love my virtual prenatal yoga class! Especially on cold, rainy days when I don’t have to leave my living room to get to class 10 miles away. To me, I’m ok with either and know this is only temporary.”

I participated in a mommy and me music class with baby #1 but with baby #2, I rely on YouTube. There are some excellent videos with movement and I don’t need to pack the diaper bag!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women who contract Covid-19 might be at an increased risk for severe illness or preterm birth, however it’s still too soon to know for certain the health impacts of Covid on pregnant moms or newborns. Each person, pregnant or not, responds to Covid differently. Expectant and new moms should follow these prevention guidelines from the CDC:

* Limit close contact with others as much as possible.

* Wear a mask around anyone outside of your immediate household.

* Avoid others who aren’t wearing masks.

* Maintain at least 6 to 10 feet of social distance from others outside your household

* Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

* Avoid activities where protective measures can’t be taken.

* Don’t miss your prenatal appointments.

* Get your influenza vaccine (flu shot).

Before the pandemic, the CDC said about 13% of pregnant women experienced depression during pregnancy or within the first year of giving birth, which is called perinatal depression. According to a recent study from the University of Alberta in Canada, that percent jumped to 40% from April 14 to May 8, 2020 when the fear and the surge of the pandemic was heightened. Many hospitals and doctor’s offices started seeing many more patients who were feeling depressed, vulnerable and lonely whether they were pregnant or not. We interviewed several mothers that were experiencing signs of depression and one of the biggest triggers was not having support at home. Many mothers with children at home expected to have help from grandparents or retired relatives, but now were unable to due to the high risk of Covid in older people. All of the sudden, many family support systems disappeared.

We have gathered a list of coping strategies for pregnant and new moms during Covid-19and we hope these can help you and other moms.

Practice Self Care: eat a healthy diet and make sure to get enough exercise. Don’t be afraid to ask you husband or partner for extra help with the children. Sleep is very important for self care. If time allows, nap when baby naps.

Find Ways to Connect: stay in touch with friends and family outside of your bubble through video calls, at a safe social distance outdoors, or indoors if wearing masks. As we mentioned above, there are so many virtual support groups now. Search and join one and become a part of the new wave of motherhood.

Talk to a Professional: talk to you OB/GYN, midwife, lactation consultant, doula or mental health professional about your symptoms. Many professionals offer remote counseling and telehealth sessions and phone calls.

Be Aware: keep an eye out for unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drug use. Speak to your healthcare professional if you have concerns.

Ask for Help: your healthcare professional can refer you to agencies that offer programs such as housing assistance, help with diet, postpartum and lactation support, transportation services and more.