Becoming a parent is a life-changing moment. You have created a life that will forever be bound to yours. Parenthood opens a flow of emotions – joy, fearlessness, but also sadness and anxiety in leaving your old Self behind.
And as if the rollercoaster ride of motherhood is not enough, right now you have to deal with the COVID-19 threat. Being a new parent is hard enough under normal circumstances, but with the pandemic? It’s an unbelievable ask for new moms.
Postpartum Depression During Pandemic
Unlike the usual baby blues that last only a few days, postpartum depression can happen days, weeks, or even months after giving birth. Signs would include mood swings, a general feeling of sadness, inability to bond with the baby, and having trouble thinking clearly. Left untreated, it can severely impact the mom and her baby’s well being.
Right now, reports suggest that depression and anxiety are increasing in pregnant and postpartum women. A June 2020 study reported that 29% of women reported moderate to high anxiety before the pandemic, but the numbers jumped to 72% during the pandemic.
It’s understandable; the very measures that could prevent the spread of COVID-19, like physical distancing, also prevent new or soon-to-be moms from having their usual support systems.
You hear stories about moms stuck at home 24/7 with all the housework and child rearing. Or pregnant women forced to go to doctor’s appointments without their partners to lessen crowding in the clinics. And who wants to be stuck at home with only half of the baby stuff you need because the baby shower’s cancelled?
Indeed, the current pandemic has made motherhood that much more complicated. And in case you are feeling overwhelmed, there are a number of ways to help ease your anxiety and focus on your baby.
How to Navigate Motherhood Right Now
First things first: feeling anxious or depressed is not your fault! Postpartum depression interplays with your feelings about the pandemic. This is not your own doing – it just happens. You did not set out to feel this way.
Fortunately, you can address your condition through the following ways:
- Explore Online Mental Health Resources
The lockdown aspect of the pandemic made the online world even more crucial. An upside of this is that many physicians and therapists are offering telemedicine, where they provide consultations through phone or virtual sessions.
You could also lessen your worries by arming yourself with the latest facts about COVID-19. Resources like Harvard Health Publishing answers frequently asked questions about the virus in relation to pregnant women’s health.
- Prioritize Your NEST-S
Aside from getting proper advice and treatment from your health specialist, you can also conquer depression through some key lifestyle changes.
The keyword is: NEST-S. It stands for: Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep, Time for Self, and Supports. Let’s take a look at what each one means.
- Nutrition as anti-depression
You may already be familiar with what eating healthy looks like, and it’s okay if sometimes you opt for pizza or cookies instead. What’s important is that you are consistent overall about picking food that’s good for you. Research suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been found to lower the risk of postpartum depression. Omega-3 is abundant in fish, or flaxseed oil if you are a vegan. Take supplements if you’re not a huge fish fan.
Experts advise that you’d be better off with a Mediterranean-type diet. That means lots of plants, fruits, and whole grains, with lean proteins. Add as many colors to your plate!
Steer clear of too much processed foods (sorry pasta, baked goods, sausages and bacon) and sugars. Of course, you can still eat these occasionally, just in moderation.
- Exercise for your mood
Time (and place) for exercise can be a challenge, but because of its impact with your mood, energy levels and sleep, it’s definitely a must for new and soon-to-be moms. Don’t know which workout to do? Start with the simplest one: walking!
You don’t have to be all-out when you’re feeling low. Just 30 minutes a day of physical activity can help release hormones that restore psychological balance.
- Get quality sleep
Even if people have warned you that you’ll never sleep again once the baby is born, there are ways on how to still get quality sleep as a new parent.
Napping alongside the baby, dividing nighttime feeding with your partner or other family member, practicing consistent bedtimes are just some ways to sneak a bit of slumber. You might also want to dial up on your exercise as it promotes better quality sleep (even though you sleep less!) each night.
- Gift yourself time
Studies reveal that moms spend a whopping 164.5 hours a week providing direct and indirect care to newborns. Indeed, there’s nothing as hard and as rewarding as motherhood, but given such demands, you definitely need breaks.
Allot time for your favorite activities, be it reading, getting dolled up, wearing your favorite dress and intimates, or just plain relaxing on the couch.
- Use your Supports
Having a newborn infant means taking on more household chores. So instead of enjoying your baby’s milestones, you might be stuck doing all the cleaning and caring for the bub, all with only a couple hours of sleep!
With worries about COVID-19 still looming large, it can be harder to reach out to family and friends for an extra hand. Whatever compromise you can do right now, do it. Don’t force yourself to do the dishes if you are too tired to do it. Ask your partner to handle some more chores. Maximize online deliveries so you don’t need to get out of the house for errands.
In today’s climate, every bit of support counts. A few trusted neighbors and family members can give you enough help to avoid a meltdown.
Being a new parent now in the time of COVID-19 feels a lot like a baptism of fire. Which, if you think about it, is not so different from being a mom in itself!
You now have a human being to take care of. Yes, there is still a pandemic going on around the world. But there’s also the concrete steps you can take to fend off anxiety and depression. Oh, and don’t forget the unwavering support your loved ones and communities like this one can give you. You got this, momma!