As May 2020 is coming to a close, let’s not forget Maternal Mental Health and women who are trying to conceive or suffering from PMADS. It’s an awareness that should stay with us all-year-round.
May 2020 proved to be an unduly difficult time for many new Mom’s who are encountering decreased support resources, frightening restrictions, and limited access to healthcare. As quarantines and disrupted routines continue to be the norm throughout the US, feelings of loneliness and despair have become prevalent throughout the entire population. Mothers and women who are expecting are especially vulnerable to feeling stressed and suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges.
Isolation & Emotional and Financial Stresses are Impacting Mothers
Women in the perinatal period, meaning after having given birth, and lasting through the year following giving birth, are coping with the regular stressors of motherhood, on top of all of the new stressors introduced by COVID-19, including uncertainty, fears about their own health, baby’s health, and the health of their partners, as well financial stressors. An enormous challenge that new mothers have been facing during the pandemic is isolation at a time when social support is, in many cases, vital. It is not clear how this new challenge will impact new mothers in aggregate, but our office has definitely been speaking with mothers who are struggling more with depression and anxiety.
In New York City, as well as in many parts of the country, women who are pregnant have had to adjust their delivery plans. For some, this has meant that only one support person can accompany them to give birth. For others, this has meant that they made a very difficult decision to deliver elsewhere – often times leaving a trusted obstetrician.
One of the most essential times for women to be surrounded by community is when they first become mothers. During COVID those who gave birth did so with only one person at the bedside, and they may have had to make additional last minute changes to who might be helping them at home. NYC Psychiatry has seen such love and creativity coming from other mom’s and friends, reaching out and letting new mothers know that even if they can’t meet the baby and help in person, they are checking in, and are there to offer support in any way possible. Still, it is a difficult time to have a new baby. Mothers want to calm their anxiety and grief to be strong for their new baby, but that isn’t always easy to do, especially in light of the uncertain times created by this crisis. Women may also be at greater risk for PMADs because of missed OB follow-ups, or because their OB was just getting set up for telehealth, so they didn’t perform proper post partum depression screening.
Mothers who have school aged children are feeling the burden of being a parent and teacher. With 55 million children homebound during the pandemic, mothers are left with little time to focus on their own mental and physical well-being.
Warning Signs for Maternal Depression Post-Covid
With summer approaching, most states are beginning to partially reopen. For mothers this is wonderful news and the ability to spend time outdoors and get abundant Vitamin D is essential for maintaining mental and physical health. But being attuned to warning signs for depression for pregnant and new mothers is even more difficult with a return to normal routines which may, at first, seem very overwhelming and overstimulating.
Allowing for a normal period of “baby blues” that can last for between a few days and a couple of weeks following childbirth, warning signs for maternal depression can include the following symptoms:
- Either sleeping too little or too much
- Listlessness or difficulty getting out of bed
- Not having the desire to see friends or relatives
- Feelings of hopelessness or despair
- Frequent crying
- Suicidal ideation
- Thoughts of harming oneself or ones child
- Lack of motivation
- Not feeling connected to your baby in ways that you would like
Remember that being concerned about your mental health or that of a loved one is not a sign of weakness. The pandemic has rendered many people vulnerable and the responsibility of having babies and young children can be stressful even in ordinary times.
If you or a loved one is suffering from depression or suspect other forms of mental health challenges, it is advisable to look into the benefits afforded by a boutique psychiatric practice like Amanda Itzkoff MD.