The challenges of becoming a new parent during lockdown
Isolation and lack of support
A recent survey found that one in four people have had feelings of loneliness during the pandemic, compared to one in 10 before lockdown. These statistics don’t specifically account for new parents, whose lives have dramatically changed.
Isolation and lack of support are already known risk factors for poor mental health in new mums. Because of coronavirus, new parents are unable to welcome certain family and friends into their home to help. This will be causing loneliness and isolation, and mums and dads alike will be feeling this lack of support more than ever.
Mental health conditions
Depression and anxiety affect 15 to 20 per cent of women in their first year after childbirth. Anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive‑compulsive disorder (OCD) and post‑traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also occur.
The pandemic is affecting many people’s mental health. And new mums may be at greater risk of mental health conditions with the uncertainty and isolation of lockdown.
A sense of loss
Having a baby during a pandemic means the start of parenthood may be very different to what you had anticipated. Not being able to introduce your baby to family and friends or welcome people into your home may create a sense of loss.
Perhaps you had planned to attend baby groups, which are currently closed, or meet other parents for coffee in local cafes? Maybe your own parents are shielding and can’t enjoy those first cuddles. This creates a sense of loss for everyone.
Worrying for the health of your baby
As a new parent, it’s very common to worry about your baby’s health and possible illness. The coronavirus pandemic is likely to add to this worry. But it’s important to remember that new-born babies don’t appear to be at high risk of becoming seriously unwell with the virus. But always get medical help if you’re worried about your baby’s health, especially if they develop a high fever.
Read four personal stories from real women who had their baby during lockdown.
Looking after your health as a new parent
Connect with others
Try to connect with friends and family over video call or on the telephone if you can’t meet in person. Staying in touch with people you trust is important for your mental health, and even more so when you’ve just had a baby. Connect with other parents via social media or messaging. They will be going through the same emotions as you, and it can help to talk about these with someone you know will understand.
Can you form a bubble?
If you’re a single parent, you’re allowed to form a support bubble with another household. It also works the other way around. So, if you have a parent or sibling who lives alone, they can join your bubble and offer a form of support during the early days of having a baby. This gives you the chance to take a shower, sleep or simply have some company.
Having a new baby is very tiring. Eating well and looking after yourself will help keep your strength up and aid your recovery from birth. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to keep your calories up to meet your baby’s demands. On this point, if you have symptoms of, or confirmed coronavirus, the advice is to continue breastfeeding. There is no evidence to date to suggest you should stop.
If friends and family can’t help with your baby at this time, perhaps they could drop food or cooked meals to you? People genuinely want to help and support, so take up offers of grocery shopping or cooking.
Get some regular exercise and fresh air
Walking is a great way to slowly build your fitness back up after having a baby. It’s also a chance to get out of the house, have a change of scenery and enjoy some fresh air. Being outdoors and in nature is great for your wellbeing and can boost your mood. Meet a friend for a walk at a social distance, or head to a nearby park or green space.
Try breathing techniques
If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, dedicate some time to simply breathing and practising some mindfulness. Certain breathing techniques can help you relax and focus your mind. You could listen to a progressive music relaxation podcast while your baby is sleeping. This can help you to unwind and bring awareness to your body and the present moment.
Read our article on managing and reducing anxiety during COVID-19 for more tips and advice.
Relax and focus on the positives
There is often a pressure for women to be ‘up and about’ after having a baby and host guests. Look at the positives of having a baby during this time. Enjoy quiet family time with your new arrival. Bond with your baby and learn new skills in your own time, without the interruption of visitors.
Michelle Sheridan, practising midwife and Specialist Nurse Advisor at Bupa, explains the importance of recognising postnatal depression during this time and how to get support.
“Maternity services may have to work slightly differently at this time. Postnatal home visits by midwives or health visitors may not be possible, or services may be stretched. Because of this, there is a danger that postnatal depression may be missed.
“Look out for signs of postnatal depression, either in yourself or your partner, and seek advice and support if you’re struggling day to day. Don’t put how you feel down to the lockdown situation or feel like you shouldn’t ask for support.”
Symptoms of postnatal depression
Michelle outlines some symptoms of postnatal depression.
“Symptoms can be very similar to those of depression. You may feel low, upset or tearful, restless, agitated or irritable. You may also feel guilty or worthless or feel disconnected from reality.
“Many women feel a bit down, tearful or anxious during the first week after giving birth. This is often called the ‘baby blues’ and is very common. But if you have symptoms for over two weeks, it’s important to contact your midwife or postnatal support team for advice.”
Bupa has a dedicated topic page to postnatal depression, with further information on symptoms and treatments.
There are also several support groups that you can contact for further advice or simply to talk to someone.