How to cope with postnatal depression during COVID-19

From cancelled baby showers to prenatal appointments via WhatsApp, being pregnant and giving birth during a pandemic can further add to feelings of frustration, fear and isolation commonly associated with postnatal depression.

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For new parents, the reality of social distancing and living in a nationwide lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic presents an array of new challenges and concerns over and above the birth of their child.

“As the body’s hormone levels return to pre-pregnancy levels, feelings of intense emotion and exhaustion are normal in the days after birth. Many women develop overwhelming feelings of sadness, detachment, irritation and fear after their baby is born,” says Dr Howard Manyonga, an obstetrician and head of The Birthing Team. “These feelings have been compounded by the lockdown because parents aren’t able to receive physical support from family and friends during this time.”

ALSO SEE: 7 warning signs of postpartum depression

Dr Manyonga offers this advice to new parents in navigating the COVID-19 lockdown with their babies:

Call your midwife

Check-ups with your healthcare providers in the days after birth, as well as at the 6-week mark, are key to ensuring both you and your baby are doing well. You are encouraged to speak about your mood and any concerns you have during these visits.

Reach out to family and friends, virtually

Many parents are finding it difficult to not see loved ones during the lockdown. Not having your family meet your child face to face can be upsetting, but it is important to remember you are not alone during this period. Connect with your loved ones using digital platforms such as Skype and Zoom.

Make use of counselling services

Talking through difficulties can be a huge help in managing feelings of depression and anxiety after the birth of your child. If you have a designated psychologist or therapist, ask if you can do telephonic consultations. Additionally, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) offers free counselling and 24-hour helplines.

Reframe your lockdown outlook

A change of perspective can help you manage feelings of anxiety during this period. Rather than thinking about how you are stuck inside or stuck at home, see that you are keeping your family safe and you are able to spend extended periods of time bonding with your baby. It is a special time for both you and your partner to fully work together to support one another and your child.

More about the expert:

The Birthing Team, supported by healthcare management company PPO Serve, provides affordable private maternity care to women who are uninsured. Their all-inclusive fee covers all necessary scans, tests, medication and consultations, including hospital costs for the delivery, based on their allocated care plan. They are currently operational at Netcare Park Lane in Johannesburg, Netcare Femina in Pretoria, Netcare Pholoso in Polokwane and JMH City Hospital in Durban. For more information visit www.thebirthingteam.co.za.  

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