August 7, 2020 by John Fernandez
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 those with postpartum depression, the sentiment behind the holiday may leave them feeling overwhelmed and sad. About 10 to 15 percent of new mothers experience the condition that can negatively affect their thoughts, emotions and functional ability 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 with Baptist Health, explained, “The usual recommendations we make to moms with postpartum depression are not easy to implement during COVID-19. We tell them to be social, get out of the house and ask friends or family members to come over and support them. Now, new moms are at home without the extra help they need 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 out to their doctor, nurse or midwife for guidance, recommends Dr. Rohaidy. “Admitting there is a problem is the first step,” she said. “New mothers may feel embarrassed, ashamed or guilty about feeling depressed when they are supposed to be happy.” But they should not.
Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several steps mothers with postpartum depression can take to improve their mental health, say the experts. These include:
It’s important for new moms to get exercise and as much rest as they can. They should eat healthy foods to boost their mood and set aside a bit of 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, most moms do not like to ask for help, but they really should ask a loved one to give them a little break.
Although new moms may be physically separated from family and friends, they can be emotionally connected through emails, texts, telephone calls and FaceTime. Open communication and social support can really help, stresses Dr. Rohaidy.
Utilizing Online Resources
Every week, Baptist Health offers numerous free virtual classes, including exercise classes, meditation sessions and nutrition guidance. Many gyms are also streaming free online exercise classes. Internet support groups, including those specifically for women with postpartum depression, are available in the form of chats, message boards and forums. Dr. Rohaidy urges new moms to find what works best for them.
Seeing a Mental Health Counselor
Postpartum depression is often treated with mental health counseling, medication or both. During this pandemic, Dr. Rohaidy and Ms. Jimenez are helping patients via telemedicine through Baptist Health Care on Demand. “It’s important for new moms to know they are not alone,” added the experts. “We are here to help.”
To schedule a private visit with a licensed mental health specialist, download the free Baptist Health Care On Demand app or visit BaptisthHealth.net/CareOnDemand. Use code WELLBEING to get $10 off your consultation, valid through December 31, 2020.