Pregnancy can be an exciting but stressful time, especially when things – like unexpected health complications or concerns for your baby – create added worries. Adding the COVID-19 pandemic into such an uncertain time can leave expectant parents feeling even more worried and isolated from friends, family, and their usual supports.
At Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver, CO, we recently launched a new call in/virtual support group for moms experiencing high-risk pregnancies against the backdrop of the global crisis. As a hub for high-risk maternal fetal care across the Rocky Mountain Region, we found that the families who sought care by our experts benefited from sharing their common stories, especially at this time. We’ve been able to bring together moms, whether at home or in the hospital, for community, support, and problem solving.
We’ve included some key takeaways below and are thrilled to announce that this model is being extended across the country as a best practice.
As we connect with expectant moms during the group and in 1:1 conversations, we’ve discovered four main themes that are most on everyone’s minds. These include:
Worry for well-being of mom and baby.
First and foremost, expectant parents worry about keeping mom and baby as healthy as possible during this time. There is so much new information coming out about COVID19, and still so many questions. It is easy to become overwhelmed! Whenever possible, seek answers to your medical questions from your healthcare team, or from organizations that are focused on maternal-infant care. One reliable source of information is the National Perinatal Association.
Concerns about connection and attachment.
Expectant parents express a lot of concern about creating connections and bonding during this uncertain time. Moms report fear and sadness over the thought that their partner, mom, or other loved one may not be able to attend their delivery; many moms fear having to birth alone with only the medical team for support. Worries about separation from baby after delivery is also a big concern. So many families planned for grandparents, extended family, and friends to meet their baby as soon as possible, and these celebrations may be postponed due to restrictions in the coming months.
Although it is hard to predict how the pandemic will unfold, being prepared is your best defense. Stay in touch with your healthcare team, and check in with the staff at your hospital so that you are aware of the latest updates on visitor policies. If you have time to plan in advance, strategize with your family about creative solutions for bringing them into the moment with you (ie, helping grandparents get connect with technology well in advance of delivery so they are comfortable using it). Connecting with other parents in your community, through online support groups or social media can be a great way to learn from others and spark creative solutions.
Problem-solving for logistical challenges.
The COVID19 pandemic is causing a lot of worry and anxiety, not only about health and connection, but logistical challenges as well. Pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period are a time in the life of a family when they often lean on the support of their village, and the pandemic is making it hard to access this support. Arranging care for older children during delivery, support for the transition home, and for those critical first few weeks feels more complicated.
One tip discussed during our group is to create a “deep bench” of support- lining up a number of people who might be available to help with critical tasks. By creating a list of supporters with multiple back-ups, you’ll be secure in knowing that even if one of your “first-string” supports falls ill or is unable to help, you will still be able access the support you need during this important time.
Sadness for “ambiguous losses.”
When experiencing a complicated pregnancy, many things don’t go as planned. Parents are sometimes reluctant to acknowledge those losses – of the perfect baby shower, or maternity photos at a favorite vacation spot – because they worry that these might seem trivial in light of the larger health concerns.
Although these concerns may be different, they are no less meaningful in the larger picture of how you envisioned building your family. With the added stress of the pandemic, many families are mourning additional “ambiguous losses”, especially around family members attending the delivery, or coming to visit after the birth. It can sometimes feel like nothing is going your way. It is ok to allow yourself to acknowledge and feel sad that things are not going as you planned.
We are in an unusual time, and this is a new situation for all of us. Although there are a lot of unknowns, and often no easy fixes for the many challenges that are arising, parents should know that they are definitely not alone!
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children Maternal-Fetal Center
We are the only hospital is the Rocky Mountain region to offer the highest level of care for both mom and baby. We have a level IV maternal program and the largest Level IV NICU in the region. Please contact us for additional information about our virtual support group, or any of our other programs including: personalized, patient navigation, genetic testing and counseling, minimally invasive fetal intervention.
Postpartum Support International
Warmline phone and text support in English and Spanish; online support groups; private Facebook support community; local coordinators that can help you access support in your area; online therapist directory of trained perinatal mental health specialists
Hand to Hold
Online support groups; 1:1 parent mentoring program; private Facebook support community; blogs and podcasts about the NICU experience