Being pregnant and having a newborn are both very significant times for a woman’s life. COVID-19 has thrown many wrenches to these experiences that have impacted moms and soon-to-be moms in many ways. In this article, we interviewed several professionals in the community that works with moms in different ways to get advice on how to manage the most common concerns they are hearing from their patients, as well as to gather free resources moms can access (see these at the end of the article).
As a Perinatal Mental Health Professional and couples counselor, I see many individuals during these milestones in their life. Here are the main concerns I have been hearing regarding mental health through this pandemic:
- Worry & Anxiety: Moms that are pregnant are worried about how the delivery process will happen at hospitals, and if they will get infected by the virus how it may impact them and their baby. There are many unknowns to be dealt with and
- Feelings of Depression: Sadness, lethargy, apathy, changes in appetite and sleep, and feelings of detachment to the baby can all be signs of depression. Due to the uncertainty caused by the virus as well as the need for social distance, many moms are experiencing feelings of depression
- Loneliness: Many moms are feeling very lonely as they cannot meet with other moms and relatives as usual, which would help boost emotional well- being
- Overwhelm: Many moms have lost support from paid help and friends or family members due to the social distance requirements making many moms feel that they have more to do on their own as well as fewer breaks from taking care of their babies for self-care
- Increased stressors as a couple: Couples are facing many stressors during these COVID 19 times. This can increase the arguing and feelings of disconnection.
If you are experiencing any of these emotional concerns, please consider:
- Eating healthy foods: having nutritious foods helps the body obtain necessary nutrients and this helps the nervous system remain calmer. Also, unhealthy foods are taxing for the body, as they contain toxins and are not as nutritious.
- Good sleep hygiene: Having a good sleeping habit can significantly help reduce stress. Sleep hygiene relates to the habits we have before going to bed. It is recommended to get off screens 1 hour before your bedtime as the blue rays on screens affect melatonin production. Instead of checking out the news or social media before bedtime, read a book, have a relaxing bath, or meditate, Also, aromatherapy is very helpful, such as scents like lavender.
- Exercise: Through exercise, we eliminate cortisol that accumulates in the body. Any level of exercise is great, but if you can get your heart rate elevated, even better. 30 minutes or more daily would be ideal. You can go for a walk, ride a bicycle, or YouTube an exercise video as long as your OBGYN says it is ok, so make sure to check with your doctor first.
- Take vitamins and supplements that help reduce stress such as magnesium. Check with your doctor if it is ok and for dosage.
- Meditation or Breathwork: These practices help with stress reduction. There are many apps and YouTube videos that can help with guided versions.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on your present moment. This helps reduce stress because when we focus on the possible worries of the future, we don't have any control over that; however, we can influence our present moment.
- Stay connected with others: If you live with your family or a roommate, engage in social activities with each other, have meals together, play games, talk about how you are feeling. Also, use FaceTime and Skype to stay connected with those that don't live with you.
- Find projects to do at home, maybe organize closets or the baby’s room.
- Look for healthy distractions: play games with others in person or online, read a book, knit, learn something new.
- As a new mom, avoid excessive alcohol consumption: Alcohol is a depressant so the stress-relieving feeling lasts temporarily and can increase feelings of depression when sober.
- Ask for help in new ways: While we cannot have guests over the house, some ways you can continue to ask for help is by asking others to grocery shop for you or any other errands you might have to complete. A friend could cook a meal and leave it at the door, a relative could help with laundry by picking it up and bringing it back when complete. Think of things that others can do for you outside of your home and ask for help. We all need a village when we become parents!
- As a couple, spend time connecting when the baby is sleeping and work on ways to give each other time alone. It is also very important as new parents to talk about your wishes and dreams for your child and what are your fears for the baby during the pandemic. Here are two articles I wrote to help couples navigate the current crisis.
- Reach out for professional help if needed. Speaking with a Perinatal Mental Health Professional or couples counselor can be a great resource during these times. Most are offering online counseling so that you can stay safe at home, as we are doing.
Read below tips and advice from 2 acupuncturists, two chiropractors, and a perinatologist (OBGYN & Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist), and a Doctor of Physical Therapy. I am extremely thankful for the professionals in our community who were willing to share their experiences and free resources.
- Christal E. DeHay, AP, DOM from Deep Roots Family Wellness. (Acupuncturist)
- Dr. Carly Tokar from Tokar Family Chiropractic (Family Chiropractor)
- Dr. Carolina Zakes, from Ova & Health Fertility (Acupuncturist)
- Dr. Sasha Davidson from Signature Perinatal Center (Perinatologist)
- Dr. Kat Vigo from Painless Pregnancy (Doctor of Physical Therapy)
- Dr. Gena Bofshever, Dr. Gena Chiropractic (Chiropractor & New Pandemic Mother)
Christal E. DeHay, AP, DOM from Deep Roots Family Wellness.
Acupuncturist Christal Dehay is all about holistic and natural approaches. And she is gifting our community a Free 5 minute tutorial on Moxabustion for boosting the immune system. We all know that our immune system is our main protection against coronavirus.
How can a pregnant momma boost their immune system?
Here’s a free 5 minute tutorial on How to use Moxabistion to Boost your Immune System by Christal E. DeHay, AP, DOM from Deep Roots Family Wellness.
Christal is also providing free printable (downloadable) guide books and cheat sheets meant to support you along your path to greater wellness, joy, and vitality. She has valuable information from Natural Home Remedies to Sleep Meditation. Make sure to check them out HERE!
Dr. Carly Tokar from Tokar Family Chiropractic
Dr. Carly Tokar from Tokar Family Chiropractic is a family chiropractor in the Plantation area. She talked about the top 3 fears her patients are expressing regarding COVID19
“1- Fear of getting sick. I understand this fear, as we are seeing so many positive tests, people being admitted to the hospital and even deaths plastered across the news and on our news feeds every day. I believe if everyone sticks to what they should be doing (ie: hand washing, not touching the face, staying home as much as possible, socially distancing when out of the house, and doing things to boost immune system like getting enough rest, staying hydrated, eating nutritious food, moving our bodies, getting adjusted, and practicing mindfulness whenever possible) we will stay as healthy as possible.
2- Fear of loved one getting sick- we cannot control the lives of others or keep people in a bubble but we can encourage our loved ones to practice these immune-boosting steps I've listed above and also stay connected to loved ones through phone calls and video calls.
3- Fear of the unknown (when life will resume back to “normal”... schools open... businesses open... etc). Again, we cannot predict or control our future. It is best to take things one day at a time, try to make healthy choices, stay away from reading the news throughout the entire day, and choose one time to get updates, etc. The more we can practice social distancing and flatten the curve, the sooner we can resume our regular activities and hopefully return to a more normal society.”
Dr. Tokar will be adding videos on her Facebook free resources regarding stretching, recipes, mindfulness, and more. Stay tuned and check out her Facebook HERE!
Dr. Carolina Zakes, from Ova & Health Fertility
Another excellent member of our community is acupuncturists and fertility expert, Dr. Carolina Zakes.
This is what Dr. Carolina Zakes DOM, AP had to say about our current situation:
“Many of my fertility patients feel like they have come to a screeching halt in their treatments. They’re anxious to know what they can do from home to improve their fertility. I continue to work with my patients through the OVA Holistic Fertility Plan which can be done from home! I have helped thousands of women to get pregnant with this plan; it is a 12-week course that covers everything from acupressure and moxa to nutrition and supplements.
Many patients doing IVF are afraid that their progress will be lost if their cycle is postponed, to which I tell them that there is so much we can do with acupressure and herbs, even if their cycle gets paused. It’s a matter of having an action plan in place, which we are more than happy to help with.
We have several pregnant moms who have already delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we actually have gained insight and experience and how better to navigate the changes being made. For moms who want to avoid medical inductions, we are still seeing those patients by appointment in order to ensure a smooth, healthy delivery for both mom and baby.
Because of the nature of our work, we are essential workers and continue to provide our Fertility and Maternity patients the same, seamless, high-quality care they have come to know, specifically tailored for the changes we are facing today.”
Dr. Zakes has been extremely active in her IG LIVE hosting virtual seminars. Her latest Virtual Seminar was a Q&A on the topic “Fertility in a Time of Quarantine”, you can catch the replay HERE!
Dr. Sasha Davidson from Signature Perinatal Center
I also had a conversation with Dr. Sasha Davidson from Signature Perinatal Center, who holds a double-board certification in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Maternal-Fetal Medicine, with specialized training in high-risk obstetric. Dr. Davidson has been extremely busy and I appreciate her taking the time to help and share with me what she has been noticing and experiencing with pregnant mothers, what are the main concerns and what can we do to put mothers at ease, and here is what she had to say:
"1. Many pregnant mothers are concerned about having their partners with them for delivery due to hospital-wide policy changes limiting the number of visitors
- We want them to understand we do not make these decisions to limit family members and support persons during labor lightly. However, with the increasing number of affected individuals and the knowledge that there are asymptomatic carriers of Coronavirus, we have made the necessary changes to keep women and babies safe during labor and postpartum. Currently both Broward General Medical Center and Holy Cross Hospital are allowing only 1 support person during labor. I recommend you discuss with your OBGYN what to expect during your admission to the hospital as these policies might be updated frequently.
2. Women are afraid of the impacts the virus can have on their pregnancy
- Understandably, women are afraid just as many Americans are of becoming infected with the novel Coronavirus. All in all, pregnant women who are young and healthy might be okay, however, there are other high risks pregnant women for whom I care for regularly with medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, HIV, etc which can increase their risk. I have already cared for two pregnant patients with Coronavirus both of whom were treated and discharged from the hospital. For my pregnant patients, I have been recommending that they work from home and practice social distancing measures as directed by the CDC. Although many women are staying home when possible and limiting their interactions, some have been concerned as many employers are resorting to pregnant women taking FMLA/maternity leave now which leaves women concerned if they will get time to spend with their baby after birth. We have been working hard behind the scenes to support our moms and ensure their continued safety. I recommend that women contact their HR personnel to discuss the implications of time off from work.
3. Women are asking if their pregnancy visits are essential:
- Coronavirus has led to an increase in physicians using telemedicine to connect with patients, especially those elderly patients who should not be out and about. OBGYNs too have been able to provide routine pregnancy care via televisits. In my practice, I have continued to see high-risk pregnant moms as these women still require increased surveillance to assess the health and well-being of the baby. Some of these women have babies with growth abnormalities, for example, that require frequent assessments.
Pregnancy care does remain essential even during the pandemic, for example as women near the end of pregnancy, there is testing that needs to be completed in advance of a vaginal delivery such as Group Beta Strep testing. Additionally, routine diabetic screening is performed for those women between 24-28 weeks and an evaluation of your developing baby between 18-20 weeks by ultrasound. For those OBGYN offices that have remained closed during this pandemic, Signature Perinatal Center has been able to fill in the gaps by offering women the opportunity to still have these timely and routine tests performed. We have been working collaboratively with OBGYNs to ensure that we still provide great pregnancy care even during a time like this. We have drawn blood work, obtained the Group B Strep tests, and offered diabetic screening when needed to avoid any gaps in care. Since ultrasound evaluations are time-sensitive, we have implemented policies and procedures in our office to minimize any risk to our patients. It certainly helps that we have a small, family-friendly office and patients do not have to interact with other women in a waiting room. We have arranged our schedule to accommodate our patients during this time. If a pregnant mom does decide to forego her visits at this time, I would encourage her to keep in touch with her OBGYN physician by phone or televisits and for those who are 28 weeks or more in pregnancy to monitor the movements of your baby on a daily basis which can be a valuable tool to ensure your baby is doing well. Although this does not replace the need for follow up, it is certainly a helpful way to monitor your baby."
Here are the free resources Dr. Sasha Davidson is sharing with us:
- Covid-19 Infection and Your Pregnancy - What You Need To Know
- Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients
- The Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Also, Dr. Davidson is currently writing an updated blog to include some of the clinical updates about what the women affected by the virus during childbirth have done and describe the experience from her NYC Maternal-Fetal Medicine counterparts. So stay tuned for this as well HERE!
Dr. Kathleen Vigo, founder of Painless Pregnancy.
I also spoke with Dr. Kathleen Vigo, who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in the pregnant and postpartum woman and the founder of Painless Pregnancy. She gave us this insight into what moms and soon-to-be moms are experiencing due to the Coronavirus.
- Increased low back pain due to changes in activity level. Specifically, no gym or work out time, increased activity required with child care. Tip: MOVE! Take a walk, stretch your legs, especially your quads/hip flexors as those tend to get tight with increased sitting. Use playtime with kids as time for stretching.
- Increase in bladder urgency due to being home more. Tip: Be cognizant of emptying your bladder only every 2 hours, or at least shoot for that time frame. Emptying your bladder when it is not full is confusing and will result in urges being stronger.
- Difficulty keeping up with a home-exercise program. Tip: Make a schedule as if you were still going out into the world. Have the household get dressed by a certain time, have a dedicated time for mommy, and try to include your exercises then. Give yourself grace as this is a crazy season for all, and changes to our expectations are appropriate.
Free resources: Dr. Vigo will be uploading educational videos to her YouTube channel, you can check out her YouTube Channel HERE!
Dr. Gena Bofshever, Dr. Gena Chiropractic
Dr. Gena just became a new mother during this pandemic (CONGRATULATIONS!!) so she has first hand experience. And here is what she has to way:
"Being that we work with many pregnant women, a big concern is delivering in a hospital during the COVID19 crisis (myself included). Many women, and their partners, are nervous and concerned about heading to the hospital, a place known for having positive confirmed cases of the virus. While many soon-to-be parents are switched their birth plans to either home or birthing centers, there are many who are either high-risk or not comfortable delivering outside of a hospital setting. This being the case, the biggest tip I can give (from my own personal experience, having delivered in the hospital on 4/13/2020), is to relax. Rest assured that the hospitals are screening and testing at entry and doing their very best to keep all as best protected as they can. The hardest part was not being able to have visitors, but with the technology we have available in 2020, you can facetime your doula, parents and friends to keep you from feeling so isolated at such an emotional time.
Another concern we hear are from patients needing our care, but scared to leave their house to visit our "essential" business. To appease this fear, know that we have incorporated many precautions to keep our patients and team members as safe as possible. We pre-screen all patients and take temperatures of our team and patients upon entering. We do not allow any sick people into the office and have removed all highly touchable areas and/or places where patients would otherwise normally linger for longer (ex: therapeautic exercises, toy area for children, coffee station, etc.). We only allow a few people in the office at a time and have spaced out patient placement on the tables, which get disinfected after each patient encounter. We no longer have patients wait in our reception area, rather we text them once their table is ready for their appointment time.
At our practice, we offer resources, such as blogs regarding how we are handling this situation. We also highly recommend getting outside in the sunshine to walk (Vitamin D), getting plenty or rest, avoiding sugar, eating a well balanced, highly nutritious diet, supplementing with vitamins (we carry the Designs For Health product line in the office), and practicing positive mindfulness, along with good hygiene practices, in order to best help/boost your immune system."
Here are the most recent blogs from Dr. Gena that might interest you as a new or soon to be mother:
Free Resources Mentioned in this Article:
- How to use Moxa to boost your immune system
- Free Guidebook and Cheat Sheets to Support your Path in Wellness, Joy, and Vitality
- Fertility in a Time of Quarantine Q&A
- Covid-19 Infection and Your Pregnancy - What You Need To Know
- Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients
- the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine
- Reducing Coronavirus-Related Stress
- Office Operation Changes During Coronavirus
Mental Health community free resources:
- Postpartum International provides free resources such as online support groups, interviews with experts, a Facebook support group, and a HelpLine: Call 1-800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453 and leave them a message and a provider will reach out to you within 24 hours. They also have a list of mental health providers that
- PPD Support Page -- Online PMD Support Forum
- PPD Support Page Chat-- Online Live PMD Chat three times a week
- Twitter Chat on Mondays: A Twitter chat on PostPartum
To a blissful pregnancy during this pandemic,
Your therapy friend,
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SOFIA M. ROBIROSA
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Relationships & Parenting Expert. She offers individual, couples, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationships. Her private practice is located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens, an evidenced based program. She is also a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She is a passionately committed therapist, who thoroughly takes pride and joy from her job. She enjoys working with a culturally diverse population and is bilingual in Spanish and English. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and an active volunteer of the Broward Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining.