By Alice Broster| June 10, 2020
"It’s likely that over the last few months you’ll have had to adapt almost every aspect of your life because of Covid-19. For new families and parents-to-be, this has been especially uncertain. The pandemic has dramatically transformed giving birth and the postpartum period. Virtual care and video consultations have stepped up to replace face to face appointments to cut down on the people entering hospitals. A neonatologist explains how postpartum care has changed because of Covid-19 and, while virtual medicine has been good for this period, it will never replace the emotional support that new parents need in person.
Over the last three months, people have faced going to the hospital to give birth alone. Families haven’t been able to introduce their newborns to their loved ones because of Covid-19 and for doctors on the frontline, it’s been an incredibly stressful time trying to deliver a high standard of care while keeping patients safe. An increase in virtual medicine has meant patients have been able to access their doctors without leaving the house. However, it’s also meant some new parents have been left behind. “For the vast majority of new parents, they need hands-on help. You need a hug and you need someone who is going to be there when you’re emotional. Sadly, that’s not something you can totally get through a computer,” says Medical Director of Aeroflow Breastpumps and board-certified pediatrician and neonatologist Dr. Jessica Madden.
With people entering hospitals alone to give birth and clinicians not being able to do at home check-ups Dr. Madden fears that some families have fallen through the net. The six week period after giving birth is key for the physical and mental health of both parents and babies. According to research conducted by Aeroflow Breastpumps, 90% of new mums believe educating parents about what to expect postpartum needs to be improved. Three out of four said they weren’t given enough guidance and 66% said they found the postpartum period more difficult than they thought it would be.
While some checks can be done over a video call, Dr. Madden highlighted that some services can’t adapt as effectively. “For the most part, lactation consultants can’t come into the room after birth to provide guidance and support. Breastfeeding clinics haven’t been open in the same way and that’s a massive loss,” says she says, “there’s an extra layer of fear right now for new parents. A lot of people aren’t bringing their babies to see pediatricians and women are scared to access postpartum care because they’re scared they’ll get Covid-19 from the doctor’s office.”
Not being able to access care and support postpartum can have massive implications for new parents. In the U.S. an estimated 70% to 80% of women will experience the ‘baby blues’ after giving birth, with many experiencing more severe postpartum depression. The reported rate of clinical postpartum depression among new mothers is between 10% to 20%. “When you look at how life is for pregnant people right now there are so many more risk factors. People are isolated and there’s excess stress and fear. I don’t think we will really know the effects Covid-19 has had on postpartum depression and anxiety until we look back on it next year,” says Dr. Madden."
By: Kelly Glass| June 10, 2020
"Asia Davis welcomed home her now two-month-old baby at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. From the start, things didn’t go as planned. Davis was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which black women are at a 63 percent higher risk of, and was required to get regular non-stress tests to monitor the health of her baby. Two weeks before her due date, her midwife explained the results of her recent non-stress test were “off,” and she needed to give birth right then.
“I cried and I begged to go home and get my stuff,” says Davis. “I had a birth plan. I wanted to labor at home before coming to the hospital, but now that wasn’t going to happen.”
A maternal-fetal specialist sent her immediately to labor and delivery, where a series of unexpected events continued. Davis’ baby’s heart rate was too high, and doctors and nurses rushed to get him out. He was fine after a frightening birth: When her son finally made his grand entrance, his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and body. “He wasn’t moving,” Davis said. “It was really scary, especially with nobody telling me anything.”
No visitors were allowed at the hospital where she gave birth, in Cleveland, Ohio’s COVID-19 epicenter, on March 26. So although her partner was with her for the birth, her mother and family weren’t able to visit for the three days she was there. Again, it wasn’t the scenario she had pictured, adding to her distress.
The postpartum period has been equally as isolated. It’s been just her and her partner and their new baby. Davis was diagnosed with postpartum depression, and with a lack of physical connection and a present support system because of social distancing guidelines, she’s struggling. Her partner, she says, is depressed too, so most of the child care burden falls on her. “I’m doing this alone, and it’s just too much. I need help.” On top of that, Davis is facing going back to work and finding childcare for her infant during a pandemic, which adds another huge set of worries.
According to a recently released report by Aeroflow Healthcare, 56 percent of new moms said they had family and friends stay with them to help out. Still, 48 percent said they struggled with postpartum depression and 39 percent with social support isolation. Postpartum depression, a serious mood disorder, affects 1 in 7 women and can last for months if left untreated, according to the American Psychological Association. Other postpartum mood disorders, namely postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PP-PTSD), can occur when childbirth is stressful and traumatic. To add to that, according to a 2018 study in Frontiers in Psychiatry, low social support is a significant risk factor for PP-PTSD. And those findings came during what now seems like a faraway time when baby showers, hospital visitors, and family coming over was the norm. Now, moms not only face postpartum depression and stressful birth experiences like Davis’, but are even more isolated than before — and the effects are yet unseen."
By Diane Spalding
"I am a midwife, and that means two things:
But we are in a pandemic, which means that the latter is impossible—and this makes me impossibly sad. You deserve hugs, love, recognition and so much more. So I will settle for the next best thing, which is to write you a little love letter.
Darling new mama. Here are seven things you need to know:
1. This is hard
Welcome to the mom club. It's a really awesome club, but there is a sad underlying truth you need to be aware of: Moms are notoriously hard on ourselves (often for things that we have no control over). Like, say, a pandemic.
So many new mothers are wrought with guilt that they are doing this "wrong." Mama, there is no wrong here. Not even close. This is just hard. And it's okay to admit that. Saying that this is hard or disappointing does not diminish anything about your quality as a mother. This IS hard. And it's okay to say as much.
But that brings me to my next point...
2. You can do hard things
Motherly's co-founder and CEO, Jill Koziol, often says, "This is hard, but we can do hard things." I'm not sure it has ever rung more true than right now.
You have a long history of doing (and rocking) hard things. Perhaps getting pregnant was hard. Perhaps you had a hard pregnancy. Then a baby came out of your body—um, hello! Or perhaps you became a mama through adoption, surrogacy or with a gestational carrier—that can be super hard, too.
The point is, you have been met with challenges before, and you have overcome them. Yes, this is tough. But mama, so are you.
3. People are on your side
On #TeamMotherly, we often remind each other of the Mr. Rogers quote that says, "When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world."
Maybe it feels impossibly scary to be bringing a baby into the world, but there are so many helpers right now.
Public health officials are figuring out policies to keep people safe.
Scientists and doctors are researching treatments and vaccines.
Activists and policy-makers are working to make the world a more just place for everyone.
Remember that even when it feels helpless, people are working around the clock to make things better for you and your sweet baby."
"Even babies notice differences like skin color, eye shape and hair texture. Here's how to handle conversations about race, racism, diversity and inclusion, even with very young children.
A few things to remember:
Sharon Oughton|Ted Talk
"In this talk, Sharon will talk about the concept of infant mental health and how the overall wellbeing (emotional, physical) wellbeing of the baby in the context of his/her early relationships is very significant his/her lifecycle outcomes. “Seeing” the baby in every sense will ensure our future wealth in society.
Sharon is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist with over 15 years working with children and families. In that time she has gained an enormous sense of the importance of early relationships, especially in terms of emotional development, mental health and wellbeing. Degree in Social Work, MSc in Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, including research on the impact of fairy tales and modern cartoons on emotional development and is a member of the Irish Council for Psychotherapy and a committee member of the Irish Association of Infant Mental Health.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx"
"As we hide in our homes waiting out this virus, I’m worried about another, silent, pandemic."
By Lindsay Springer| June 12, 2020
"On any given day, I make 17 snacks, change 12 diapers, listen to 957 complaints, constantly remind everyone to wash their hands, and burst into tears at least three times.
Yes, this is life with young kids. It’s what I signed up for and no, it’s not glamorous. Being a mom doesn’t come with “me” time. Showers are forever getting interrupted by preschoolers and their endless barrage of nonsensical questions. With three kids aged six and under, including a newborn, sleep is segmented, at best.
Before COVID-19, the tantrum-filled, sleep-deprived whirlwind was mostly relegated to the weekends—but at least they were also filled with park visits, lunches with grandparents, playdates, dance, art and swimming classes. And back then, there was actually an end in sight—back to work/school/childcare on Monday, huzzah!
But now, 82 days into the longest weekend ever lived, and I’m so, so tired. Tired of living the same day over and over again. Tired of making toilet paper binoculars and watching Paw Patrol. Tired of Lysol wiping the groceries and Amazon boxes. Tired of staying home. Tired of being scared of COVID-19.
My four-year-old has developed a propensity for never-ending tantrums. My now feral six-year-old refuses to change out of his pyjamas or wear shoes. My husband has set up a home office in our basement storage room, the place least likely for a partially dressed child to wander in during a Zoom call (and literally the only other room in our house that is not occupied by the rest of us). The baby is oblivious, smiling and cooing at the chaos around him. Me? I’m quietly falling apart.
How can I keep doing this? How can I get in the shower every night, wash off the spit up, the glitter glue, and the sandbox, only to crawl into bed, feed the baby, and wake up in the morning of this never-ending Groundhog Day and do it all again, without a break in sight? I, like many parents, am worn out and tired, and I fear this unsustainable hamster wheel we’re on is giving rise to a silent, mental health pandemic.
A recent survey published by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto found that Canadian parents of children under 18, and mothers, in particular, were disproportionately more likely to report new or amplified symptoms of anxiety and depression related to COVID-19. These survey results are alarming, but not at all surprising since COVID-19 has changed parenting and redefined the landscape of motherhood."
By Brooke Borel|April 17, 2020
"Here’s a primer on how to conceive, whatever your sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status."
"The early scenes of “Private Life,” a 2018 Netflix film about a New York City couple who are trying to conceive, present an unsettling scenario for anyone pondering their biological clock: A 40-something woman wakes up after an infertility procedure to find that things can’t progress as planned. Her doctors successfully extracted her eggs — but they also realized that her partner can’t produce any sperm. There might be a fix, but there’s a catch: It’ll cost another $10,000. Oh, and the doctors need the check today.
The scene, of course, is fictional and is meant to draw laughs, but it’s also a good reminder of how unpredictable and costly infertility treatments can be. If you’re thinking about having kids, what’s the best way to achieve that goal without unexpected and costly medical intervention?
For most heterosexual couples, the first step is to try to conceive the traditional way, said Dr. Sherman Silber, M.D., director of the Infertility Center at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis, Mo.: “I recommend, frankly, if they are young and fertile to make sure they have enough sex.”
But intercourse isn’t always a sure-fire route to pregnancy; many couples struggle with infertility because of age, illness or reasons that aren’t yet known to science, said the two fertility doctors and one researcher I spoke to for this guide. Around one in 15 married American couples are infertile, according to the most recent published data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And there are special considerations for people who are transgender, single or in same-sex relationships.
Then there’s the high cost, which “Private Life” got right: According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, as well as a fertility benefits expert I interviewed for this guide, treatments may run to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars and aren’t always covered by insurance.
What to do?"
By: Katelyn Denning
"When was the last time you felt overwhelmed? Last week, yesterday, earlier today? My guess is, it probably wasn't that long ago. If your triggers are anything like the moms I work with, overwhelm can hit you at any point and in any situation.
Sometimes it's in the middle of the workday when the responsibilities and stresses of the job get to be so much that you think there's no way you'll ever climb out of this hole, let alone your inbox.
Sometimes it's in the evenings when you look around at the mess in your house, a pile of laundry and no certain plan for dinner that you feel like you've let your family down and what you should really do is quit your job so you could actually stay on top of all of it.
Sometimes overwhelm shows up when you're surrounded by two children who are wallowing in their own overwhelm of emotions, crying and whining, that you think life will be this way forever. And you're overwhelmed by the fact that you are the adult here.
Or sometimes, overwhelm waits to hit you until the craziness of the day has ended and you have your first quiet moment to yourself. When you finally sit down, exhale a big sigh of relief, and think about doing it all over again tomorrow, the crushing weight of overwhelm sits on you making it hard to breathe.
Can you relate?
No matter how it shows up for you, overwhelm feels heavy. It creates the feeling of being out of control in terms of practically everything you can think of. And like the temper tantrums we often witness in our children, it can be hard to snap out of.
Trust me—we have all been there and some of us probably more frequently than we would like to admit.
But just like we're taught how to approach and calm a toddler who is stuck in an emotionally overwhelming moment which often manifests as a screaming fit, there are things that we can do to help ourselves snap out of it, too. Things that can help us stop spiraling into that feeling of being out of control, and instead, grounds us in the present moment.
You will get through this.
Everything is not lost.
This is only temporary.
You've got this.
So the next time you feel that feeling, you know how it goes—your breath becomes short, your head starts to feel heavy, you can't see past your own nose and you just might break into tears if anyone asks you if you're okay—try one (or try all) of these things to catch your breath and reset."
By Pooja Lakshmin|may 27, 2020
"New and expecting moms are facing pandemic-related fears on top of social isolation."
Photo: Mikyung Lee
"After going through a harrowing bout of postpartum depression with her first child, my patient, Emily, had done everything possible to prepare for the postpartum period with her second. She stayed in treatment with me, her perinatal psychiatrist, and together we made the decision for her to continue Zoloft during her pregnancy. With the combination of medication, psychotherapy and a significant amount of planning, she was feeling confident about her delivery in April. And then, the coronavirus hit.
Emily, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, called me in late-March because she was having trouble sleeping. She was up half the night ruminating about whether she’d be able to have her husband with her for delivery and how to manage taking care of a toddler and a newborn without help. The cloud that we staved off for so long was returning, and Emily felt powerless to stop it.
Postpartum depression and the larger group of maternal mental health conditions called perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are caused by neurobiological factors and environmental stressors. Pregnancy and the postpartum period are already vulnerable times for women due in part to the hormonal fluctuations accompanying pregnancy and delivery, as well as the sleep deprivation of the early postpartum period. Now, fears about the health of an unborn child or an infant and the consequences of preventive measures, like social distancing, have added more stress.
As a psychiatrist who specializes in taking care of pregnant and postpartum women, I’ve seen an increase in intrusive worry, obsessions, compulsions, feelings of hopelessness and insomnia in my patients during the coronavirus pandemic. And I’m not alone in my observations: Worldwide, mental health professionals are concerned. A special editorial in a Scandinavian gynecological journal called attention to the psychological distress that pregnant women and new mothers will experience in a prolonged global pandemic. A report from Zhejiang University in China detailed the case of a woman who contracted Covid-19 late in her pregnancy and developed depressive symptoms. In the United States, maternal mental health experts have also described an increase in patients with clinical anxiety.
In non-pandemic times, as many as 14 percent of women will suffer from pregnancy-related anxiety, which refers to fears that women have about their own health and their baby’s over the course of pregnancy and delivery, and up to 20 percent of women will experience postpartum depression.
Samantha Meltzer-Brody, M.D., M.P.H., who is the chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the director of the Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, said, “The natural vulnerability of this major life transition is exacerbated when you just have sort of global anxiety, and things like going to the grocery store to pick up diapers suddenly become a much more anxiety-producing event than it ever was before.”
In my clinical practice and in a Covid-19 maternal well-being group I co-founded, women have voiced their fears about a number of possible distressing scenarios: delivering without a support person; being one of the 15 percent of pregnant women who is asymptomatic for Covid-19 and facing possible infant separation; and recovering during a postpartum period without the help of family or friends to provide support. There’s also grief about the loss of a hopeful time that was meant to be celebrated with loved ones."
By: Mikaela Kiner
"Pre-pandemic, being a mom meant figuring out the tricky balance between parenting, home, career and self. What that meant in practice was that women in heterosexual relationships took on about two-thirds of domestic responsibilities.
The global coronavirus pandemic has resulted in dramatic shifts for everyone, especially for families, with parents working from home, school and day care closures and a general loss of stability and support. Now moms are homeschooling older kids, caring for little ones, feeding their families three meals a day, and sanitizing everything, all while trying to keep everyone healthy and keep up with their day jobs.
While many partners have stepped up to take on more responsibilities at home during the pandemic, the workload balance has not shifted enough (despite nearly half of men claiming they do "all" the homeschooling, a claim that most women disagree with).
Women are legitimately concerned that they will become the default caregivers and take on most or all of the household chores, leaving little or no time for their careers or their own well-being.
Here's how to keep that from happening by coming to an agreement with your partner about sharing the workload at home.
1. Have the hard conversation.
Many people avoid hard conversations out of a fear that things will become adversarial. But now more than ever, we need to talk about roles and expectations. Remember that your partner also wants what's best for you and the family. View this conversation as a collaborative conflict, one where the two of you are working together toward a win-win solution.
Phrase to try: "Let's sit down for half an hour this evening and review both of our to-do lists," or "Can we find a time in the next day or two to go over everything we're both trying to get done?"
2. Start with your goals in mind.Your goal is to come up with a plan that works for both of you. The focus is you both teaming up against the problem.
Phrase to try: "I'd like to talk about how we can both find a good balance between work and helping the kids," or, "So much has changed. Let's talk about how we're going to make this work for us both."
3. Share your hopes + fears.
Tell your partner what you're worried about, and what's been most challenging. Be honest about your experience and what you're afraid of. You'll notice there are no assumptions, personal attacks, shaming or blaming, which is important. My friend Melissa Strawn was in the middle of launching a business when the virus hit. Her husband works full-time and they're raising five boys. Melissa suggests, "Communicate openly and honestly about what's working and not working. Sometimes, I am just looking to feel validated given how much I actually juggle with five kids and a startup. Other times, I need him to just #getitdone."
Phrase to try: "I'm concerned that I've taken on all of the homeschooling and I don't have time to do my work," or, "I realize I'm trying to cook, clean and watch the baby. When I sit down to focus on my job, I'm already exhausted."