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Mental health for pregnant women and mothers: Coping during the pandemic

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Pregnancy is an exciting time for many women that comes with a rollercoaster of emotions, but pregnancy during a global pandemic carries a host of unexpected challenges. Worry, increased anxiety and stress are normal feelings that many women experience, but the pandemic may further increase these. If you are pregnant and find your stress levels increasing, bring up any concerns to your provider who can connect you with resources to help.

Some anxiety about the potential of getting sick is completely appropriate and can motivate pregnant women and new mothers to take precautions. Getting accurate information on minimizing your risk of exposure is important, both practically and for giving you a sense of control and of safety. Reputable sources include your doctor's office, Baylor College of Medicine's list of COVID-19 resources, and Texas Children’s COVID-19 website

Recognize that we are all learning as we go and experts may know more about disease transmission in general, or more than you feel you know in this moment, but we are all still learning about this specific disease. For example, we have learned that surfaces are a less risky way to come in contact with the virus that causes COVID-19, so that means worrying less about your mail or groceries. We also know that aerosolized particles from someone coughing, singing or even talking loudly are a big risk, so wearing a mask protects others from your own germs and staying physically distant from others protects you. Being outside with people where particles get dispersed quickly by wind is also safer than being in an enclosed space with others.

While it’s not possible to reduce your chances of getting COVID-19 to 0%, the goal is to reduce your risk as much as possible. Other ways of reducing your risk is to ensure you are caring for yourself by staying mentally and physically healthy.

Tips for caring for your mental and physical health include: 

  • Reduce your sense of isolation by remembering that we are all going through this together. There is common humanity in this pandemic.  
  • Stay connected to your loved ones beyond your home via email, video and phone calls. 
  • Daily exercise, which could be a walk outside, an online exercise class or some simple movements during throughout the day.
  • Mini-mindfulness practices such as:
    • Finding three things you enjoy or are grateful for every day, which could be as simple as noticing how nice it feels to wash your face with warm water.
    • Focusing on a household task such as doing the dishes, notice when your mind wanders and gently bring it back to paying attention to what you are doing in that moment, how it feels, looks, smells.
    • Take three deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth intermittently throughout the day. Do it to an even count of in for 5 seconds, hold deeply in belly for 5 seconds, out for 5 seconds, pause and repeat. Or, for added relaxation, increase the time of the outbreath and use abdominal muscles to empty lungs.  

If you already have children at home and find this time to be particularly challenging, here are some steps you can take:

  • Do some research on the developmental stage of your child (by age) and what kind of behavior is expected for that age. Louise Bates Ames' series of books called "Your ____ Year Old" is a great resource.
  • Try to catch yourself when you are just managing your child instead of having an idea of where they are emotionally at a moment in time. Try to listen to your child to see what's important to them right now (underneath their begging for a treat) and try to find a way to satisfy their need. Or, when all else fails, distract them. Try to avoid power struggles with your child because they fight dirty!
  • Find resources for ideas on spending time with your kids such as in these articles: New York Times, Healthy at Home and Mental Health America.

Pregnancy during a pandemic is uniquely challenging. If you’re having a difficult time managing your emotions, the Center for Reproductive Psychiatry at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women is here to help.