Covid challenges of pregnancy, birth and beyond

The joy a baby can bring to our lives and the connecting they do is beyond our thinking. One of life’s greatest gifts, they bring new hope, dreams and lashings of unconditional love for families.

However, Mums and Dads-to-be have been tested in many ways during this pandemic. Becoming pregnant, which normally brings excitement in most cases, is now also bringing some anxiety and fear, according to psychotherapist Mary McHugh. She has this advice for expecting families.

Covid-19 has impacted on the mental wellbeing of Mums-to-be. This is showing itself in their feeling more anxious, more alert to danger, in some cases excessively cleaning and checking for problems, which, in severe cases, can become OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). These are normal and predictable reactions.

It can feel like Mums have been stripped of the basic joys of pregnancy. They are resorting to shopping online, as they fear going out, they are not meeting up with friends, and some are even too afraid to leave the house. They may also fear catching covid-19 and worry about not knowing the implications of how it will affect them and, significantly, their baby.

Exciting milestones that were taken for granted, like going as a couple for the scans, are undermined, with mums now having to attend baby scans on their own.

If all is going well, the disappointment is in not sharing the special moments with your partner. If all is not going so well, the aloneness, the fear and the distress is compounded for the Mum, and despairing helplessness is felt by the partner.

The world has become a more frightening place to bring new life into. And, those surrounding expectant families should consider their feelings and actions in this context.

However, life goes on and babies, thankfully, keep coming along and bringing beautiful hope and joy to our lives. It is easy for the rest of us to say ‘don’t worry’, but worry is natural and can be managed, if it does not become overwhelming.

Here is some advice on how Mums and Dads-to-be can look after themselves:

  • Accept things as they are
  • Follow the advice of experts
  • Try not to watch or listen to too much media about Covid-19
  • Talk about your fears and concerns with your GP, midwife, partner or a counsellor
  • Look after your physical health by taking regular exercise and watching your diet
  • Meditation can really help you to focus on you and the baby
  • Talk to the baby
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Get out in nature

These are simple things, but making them a focus can be a powerful support. This is special time for you, your partner and your baby, and how you are feeling has to be the priority. Indulge yourself and acknowledge your feelings, whatever they are, acting on them and getting support, if they are troubling.

Once baby arrives, it is also important to honestly communicate with your partner, family members and your GP or carers about how you are feeling.

Our bodies go through huge changes, impacting our hormones which impact on the whole system. From intense joy to deep distress, and everything in between, the ‘rollercoaster’ association was coined for a reason.

Accept wild emotions as normal, and do your best to work through, or to get support, or to withdraw if things become very stressful; this is to be expected.

Post-natal depression is a concern after giving birth in normal circumstances and, with all the stresses that Covid-19 is bringing, its impact can be harder now. Remember, post natal depression is very common and is very treatable.

Keep communicating, and look after yourself as best you can. Reach out, if it gets too difficult. We all need to reach out at times.

Psychotherapist Mary McHugh is a pioneer in the field of online counselling, who owns and runs the Irish Online Counselling & Psychotherapy Service (IOCPS) - you can visit her website here