Pregnant Women ‘Need More Mental Health Support Than Ever’
Pregnant women and new mothers have become some of the unlikely victims of coronavirus, due to the extra stress and anxiety the pandemic has caused them, as well as the reduction in their physical and mental health care services during this time.
Maternal Mental Health Week launched on Monday (May 4th), with Wednesday being World Maternal Mental Health Day. The awareness campaign revealed between ten and 15 per cent of women experienced mental health difficulties during pregnancy before the crisis, and this figure is likely to have increased dramatically over the last few weeks, as a result of reduced access to care and taking away the support networks these vulnerable women need.
Everyone’s Business Scotland Co-ordinator Joanne Smith wrote a piece for Maternal Mental Health Alliance earlier this week, saying: “As concern turns to social and economic recovery following Covid-19, there is a need to acknowledge and address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and their babies.”
Ms Smith stated: “Lack of local, specialist support means that problems are not being identified early often leading to tragic consequences.”
Indeed, according to the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Death, published in December last year, maternal suicide was the leading cause of direct deaths within the first year of giving birth.
Maternal mental health has had big supporters this week, with the Duchess of Cambridge emphasising the need to raise awareness of perinatal depression and anxiety.
Kate Middleton took part in Zoom calls with staff and patients at Kingston Hospital in south-west London, as well as roundtable discussions with experts in the field, earlier this week.
Speaking with the midwives at the hospital, she asked what the main concerns pregnant women and new mothers are currently experiencing.
Mental health midwife Jo Doumouchtsi was reported by the Daily Mail as telling the Duchess: “There are women that have no mental health history that are becoming incredibly anxious because of the situation currently.”
As well as not being able to see their loved ones during this precious time, their partner potentially not being able to be with them while they are in labour or visit them afterwards, and concern about the effects having coronavirus could have on their unborn child, they are worried about catching Covid-19 while in hospital to give birth.
Though the wider social implications of coronavirus are yet to be seen, it is clearly going to have a big impact on new mothers over the next few months.
Siobhan Miller, founder of the Positive Birth Company and author of Practical Ways To Make Your Birth Better, told Female First many women are struggling with being in lockdown at the moment.
“There's also a sense of loss regarding what new mums had expected the postpartum period to be like,” she said, adding: “It's period of life that cannot be brought back. These feelings of loss and grief can be very distressing, particularly at a time when new mums are so emotionally vulnerable in the early postnatal weeks.”
As well as missing support from their families and friends, many parents might also be juggling homeschooling, feeling trapped at home or experiencing high levels of anxiety due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and the danger it presents to their new baby.
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