Sound Advice If You’re Anxious, Isolated, and Pregnant

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With all the unknowns surrounding COVID-19, you may be wishing you could reschedule your pregnancy. At a time when you need them the most, your support network of family and friends aren’t at your front door.

Licensed professional counselor Kelsey Smith, MA, LPC, with Samaritan Behavioral Health knows all about the isolation and anxiety you may be feeling. She’s due with her first child in early June. Here’s her professional (and personal) advice.

Manage Your Fears

Whether your due date looms ahead or you’ve already delivered, it’s normal to have fears. “Don’t be afraid to share your concerns with your partner and your obstetrician,” advises Smith. They can help put your fears to rest, she has found. Chatting with moms who share your experience (and your anxiety) also can be helpful. Via social media, Smith has found groups of moms who are eager to talk. “Ask them ‘how are you handling this situation?’ or ask a mom who has already delivered about her experience.”

Sharing your concerns and seeking advice normalizes your situation, says Smith. “You learn you aren’t the only one who feels the way you do, and that’s incredibly helpful.” She has found that online chats with moms who have recently delivered and are doing fine has put her mind at ease.

And although your family and friends may not be physically present to help, “you should still be comfortable asking for their advice,” says Smith. “If you’re overwhelmed, tell them. Ask what they think you should do. Just because they can’t touch the baby doesn’t mean they can’t help you.”

Make Isolation Less Isolating

If you’ve not yet delivered your baby, Smith suggests using this time to strengthen your relationship with your partner. Simple things like taking a walk or ride, cooking, or watching TV together will help to keep the focus on each other instead of withdrawing into yourself. Smith also suggests taking time for yourself. “Spend time in the nursery, color, listen to music. Whatever you feel like doing, just be sure to take some time for yourself.” Many moms-to-be find prenatal yoga both calming and comforting.

In spite of current restrictions, this is an important time to stay in touch with friends and family. It’s reassuring to know others are thinking of you and eager to do what they can. Instead of cancelling baby showers, Smith suggests finding a creative alternative, like a virtual online event, through a medium such as Zoom or FaceTime, to maintain safe social distancing. Smith even knows one couple who hosted a drive-by shower. “The couple sat on the back of their truck in the driveway. One-by-one their friends stopped at the end of the driveway, left a gift, and shared encouraging words.”

Plan For the Possibilities

You may not be able to tour the hospital as you would have liked, or join an in-person birthing class, but there probably are alternatives. Ask your obstetrician what you can do to get prepared for the big day. Smith has enrolled in an online birthing class. “But there still are lots of unknowns. So I’ve decided I’ll do the best I can, and that includes taking steps to remain virus-free. Then I’ll trust my doctor and the experts at the hospital to get us through this safely,” she says. “They deal with first-time moms all the time; they know what they’re doing!”

Planning for various possibilities will put your mind at ease, says Smith, whose baby will be both families’ first grandchild. If you can only have your partner in the delivery room, decide how you’ll tell everyone else. What if your family can’t come to the hospital? Who will you call first? Or if the lockdown is lifted, what will that look like? “Talk it out ahead of time, and remember that with any birth, you never know for sure what will happen. Just prepare as best you can.”

If you can’t have visitors once you’re back home, try to enjoy the private time with your new family. “It’s rare to have time alone. This is when family members usually rush to visit,” says Smith. If that’s not an option, spend the time bonding, learning to care for each other, and establishing a breastfeeding routine.

Take Action Against Postpartum Depression

Feeling worried, unhappy and tired (a.k.a. the “baby blues”) is common in most new moms. But you should still be able to care for yourself and your child. “If your symptoms are more severe and include thoughts of suicide, harming your baby, or feeling inadequate, you need to reach out for help,” says Smith. Postpartum depression is treatable. Ask your obstetrician or primary care physician for advice. “Even before your baby is born, you can ask for counseling,” says Smith. 

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