Pregnancy, Postpartum and Parenting in the Age of COVID-19: How to Promote Perinatal Wellness

Pregnancy, Postpartum and Parenting in the Age of COVID-19

Motherhood can be a stressful time even without the presence of a global pandemic. Now mothers of infants and mother’s-to-be are experiencing added pressure to perform the daily tasks that are expected of a good mom. Given this perfect storm of stressors currently faced by countless women, we at Mission Hospital Maternal Mental Health put together a quick guide to ease your way.

Tips for Coping

Socialize 

Have regular video dates with people who lift your spirits (whether that's friends, family or online support groups). You're not alone and you don't have to feel that way.                    

Practice self-care

You cannot pour from an empty cup. Refill by nourishing your body with nutritious snacks, basic hygiene and simply moving your body.

Be flexible

 Structuring your time can be extremely helpful when experiencing a major routine shift. However, it is important to allow for spontaneous adjustments even when we wish things would just go as planned. 

Recharge

Rest as much as you need. This may be different from how much you want to sleep. When baby is napping allow yourself time to recharge even if sleep is not possible.  

Practice gratitude

Set aside a moment of each day to reflect on the things that bring you joy. Allow yourself to enjoy the little things, no matter how small.     

Top Warning Signs of a Perinatal Disorder

Depression

  • Not enjoying most time spent with your baby
  • Frequent skipping of hygiene tasks
  • Difficulty thinking of experiences that bring you joy
  • Feelings of hopelessness such as “this will never get better"

Anxiety

  • I spend much of my time worrying about what might happen in the future.
  • I avoid situations that may leave me helpless in the event I have a panic attack.
  • Having scary mental images of harm coming to you or your baby.
  • Not being able to sleep even when time allows.

OCD

  • I worry excessively about my ability to keep my baby safe.
  • I frequently repeat actions to ensure that I do them right or avoid making mistakes.
  • I often fixate on the idea of my baby not loving me or that I may not love my baby.

When to Seek More Help

It is vital to get the appropriate level of care in order to promote a healthy quality of life and prevent conditions from worsening. Everyone deserves to get the support needed to enjoy their daily lives. If we ignore serious mental health problems we can feel robbed of the joys of life or even put ourselves or loved ones in danger. The following are some common warning signs that more professional help is needed:

  • Frequent feelings of helplessness like “my life isn’t worth living” or “my family would be  better off without me.”
  • Barely making it through each day aka “white knuckling it.” Consistently struggling to manage the basic needs of the day due to mental constraints.
  • Often feel fearful of one’s own behavior. This can be a result of disturbing intrusive thoughts or severe insecurities about one’s ability to protect their infant.
  • Excessive hours spent on tasks that cause the individual more harm than good. For example- cleaning for hours instead of resting during ones planned sleep time.

What the Maternal Mental Health Team Offers

Intensive Outpatient Program 

Mission Hospital's Maternal Mental Health Intensive Outpatient Program is a unique program tailored to support pregnant and postpartum moms when traditional individual therapy is not enough. Each member of our professional team is specially trained to meet the needs of women struggling to cope with perinatal mood and anxiety disorder symptoms. Each treatment day consists of multiple therapy groups spanning a wide range of topics pertinent to the current demands each mother faces. Given the current public health concerns, we have adapted the program to allow our mothers to receive proper treatment from the comfort and safety of their own homes through the use of virtual health. We provide a nurturing and nonjudgmental atmosphere for mothers and their babies to bond and develop skills to promote their mental health wellness.

Our team includes Board Certified Psychiatrist, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists, and Registered Nurses. Ongoing psychiatric evaluation, follow-up and medication management throughout the course of treatment is provided by our reproductive psychiatrist and psychiatric team. Individual, family and couples therapy is used to promote further insight and connection. For more information call (949) 499-7504 or email MHLPMHOP@stjoe.org to schedule an assessment appointment with one of our licensed mental health clinicians.

Virtual Postpartum Emotional Support Group 

Occurs every Wednesday 10 -11 a.m. Free

Depression occurring within a year of childbirth may be postpartum depression. Help is available for this very real and oftentimes disabling illness. This ongoing support group is for moms having unexpected feelings of anxiety, sadness, isolation and depression following birth. Facilitated by a registered nurse certified in Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders through Postpartum Support International. 

For instructions on how to join the virtual support group call (949) 499-7504 or email MHLBMHOP@stjoe.org. 

About the Author

Norah McHenry, LCSW, is a psychiatric therapist with the Mission Hospital maternal mental health program, and specializes in crisis prevention for pregnant and postpartum women.

About the Author

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