New Moms With Postpartum Depression Face Unique Challenges During Pandemic

May is Mental Health Month. Experts urge women with postpartum depression to make mental health and happiness a priority.

Mother’s Day is a joyful occasion for most new moms, but for thosewith postpartum depression, the sentiment behind the holiday may leave themfeeling overwhelmed and sad. About 10 to 15 percent of new mothers experience thecondition that can negatively affect their thoughts, emotions and functionalability as well as the mental wellbeing of their partners and children.

Making postpartum depression even more difficult to overcome, social distancing recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic may cause unique challenges for women with the condition. Rachel Rohaidy, M.D., a psychiatrist with Baptist Health South Florida, worries that the isolation that protects new moms from COVID-19 decreases their access to the support and resources that can help them optimize their mental health.

Dr. Rohaidy’s colleague, Graciela Jimenez, a psychotherapist withBaptist Health, explained, “The usual recommendations we make to moms withpostpartum depression are not easy to implement during COVID-19. We tell themto be social, get out of the house and ask friends or family members to comeover and support them. Now, new moms are at home without the extra help theyneed to care for themselves, their home and their newborn.”  

Although it is common for a new mom to experience “baby blues” for two weeks following the birth of her baby, if sadness and feelings of hopelessness persist beyond that and grow more intense, it is important that she seeks help, says Ellen Schwartzbard, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist with Baptist Health.  Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Severe anxiety
  • Excessive crying
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or anger
  • Difficulty bonding with baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest in joyful activities
  • Lack of concentration
  • Thoughts of harming self or baby

New moms with symptoms of postpartum depression should reach outto their doctor, nurse or midwife for guidance, recommends Dr. Rohaidy.“Admitting there is a problem is the first step,” she said. “New mothers mayfeel embarrassed, ashamed or guilty about feeling depressed when they aresupposed to be happy.” But they should not.

Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, thereare several steps mothers with postpartum depression can take to improve theirmental health, say the experts.  Theseinclude:

Practicing Self-Care

It’s important for new moms to get exercise and as much rest asthey can. They should eat healthy foods to boost their mood and set aside a bitof time to do an activity they find relaxing, like taking a warm bath,meditating, reading a book or listening to music. As Ms. Jimenez points out, mostmoms do not like to ask for help, but they really should ask a loved one togive them a little break.

Staying Connected

Although new moms may be physically separated from family andfriends, they can be emotionally connected through emails, texts, telephonecalls and FaceTime. Open communication and social support can really help,stresses Dr. Rohaidy.

Utilizing Online Resources

Every week, Baptist Health offers numerous freevirtual classes,including exercise classes, meditation sessions and nutrition guidance. Manygyms are also streaming free online exercise classes. Internet support groups,including those specifically for women with postpartum depression, areavailable in the form of chats, message boards and forums. Dr. Rohaidy urgesnew moms to find what works best for them. 

Seeing a Mental Health Counselor

Postpartum depression is often treated with mental healthcounseling, medication or both. During this pandemic, Dr. Rohaidy and Ms.Jimenez are helping patients via telemedicine through Baptist Health Care onDemand. “It’s important for new moms to know they are not alone,” added theexperts. “We are here to help.”   

To schedule a private visit with a licensed mental healthspecialist, download the free Baptist Health Care On Demand app or visit code WELLBEING to get $10 off your consultation, valid through December 31,2020.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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