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Extending compassion to pregnant women during COVID-19

By Juhee Jhalani, PhD

A journey to foster self-love and compassion:  Week 7

A weekly anxiety management practice during COVID-19 pandemic, by a psychologist.

Please remember that COVID-19 is a disease but  pregnancy is not. Take time to celebrate the joys of pregnancy. Every birth is a miracle. Be compassionate to yourself and/or your pregnant partner. Enjoy and celebrate this special time in your life. 

Welcome to week 7! In our journey this week we bring love and compassion to our soon-to-be mothers who are eagerly waiting to bring a new life into this world. The journey of pregnancy in itself is challenging, amidst the pandemic this can be an extremely overwhelming experience. If you or someone in your life is pregnant, then take this week to acknowledge the hard work that you or the pregnant woman is engaging in. Amidst the pandemic, it is normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed with health concerns for both yourself and your unborn child. The maternal instinct to protect yourself and your child may be peaking at this time. Please be kind to yourself and your loved ones and practice acceptance and compassion. Here we are discussing some coping skills and tips that may help pregnant women and their caregivers feel more calm and competent as they navigate the journey of pregnancy in these challenging times together.

Stay connected with your doctor. Despite the pandemic and the fear of getting exposed to COVID-19, please remember that prenatal visits continue to be vital to ensure the health of the pregnant woman and her fetus. Before you go in for your next visit, please reach out to the doctor’s office and check if a telehealth appointment is an option. If an in-person visit is advised by your practitioner, then inquire about the procedures that the doctor’s office is taking to address the safety of their patients before and during the visit. This may help the pregnant woman and her family feel more safe and address any concerns of getting infected with COVID-19. If you have the fear of not receiving enough attention from your doctor or the medical team, as medical care may be diverted to COVID-19 patients, then present your concerns to your medical team and discuss contingency plans in case of a crisis. Obstetric care is an essential medical care. Most medical facilities have plans to ensure that a medical provider is always present to attend to the concerns of a pregnant patient at all times. Before your next virtual or in-person medical appointment consider creating a list of your concerns including breast feeling, prenatal or postnatal care for your medical provider ahead of time. Do not hesitate to be your own health advocate. Do ask questions promptly and assertively.

Take time to celebrate pregnancy. It may be disappointing to not be able to celebrate your pregnancy. Large gatherings such as baby showers and traveling for a baby-moon are not advisable. Take time to acknowledge your sadness and frustration. Talk to someone that you trust and will understand your feelings. Consider talking to a mental health professional to help you navigate these feelings more meaningfully. Try to be creative and open to new alternative options to celebrate. Maybe a virtual baby shower or a drive-by baby shower can serve as an unconventional yet a fun experience for you. Embrace creativity and appreciate what you can do at this time to celebrate your pregnancy. Remember we are navigating a pandemic together. You are brave to experience pregnancy during these times and you are doing your part to prevent the spread of the virus. Be proud of yourself.

 Practice social distancing not social isolation. Keep yourself and your unborn baby safe by practising social distancing, wearing a mask and regularly hand washing. Take good care of your emotional health by engaging with your family, friends and loved ones. Include video chats, phone calls and texting in your daily schedule as essential activities. Self-disclose your feelings and invite dialogue and suggestions. Be accepting to any help that your loved ones may be willing to offer at this time. Reach out to your pregnant friends and family members regularly and offer to bring groceries or order/drop off any essential items that they may need. Assist them, such that they can avoid any unnecessary exposure to the virus at the supermarkets or other closed spaces.

 Address your physical health and well-being. Make sure to move and stretch enough each day. Brisk walking at home, in your apartment or in your yard is a good idea. Invest in online prenatal yoga or a pregnancy Pilates class if possible. Eat a well-balanced diet. Proper rest and hydration are essential to support a healthy immune system. Take time to deep breath and calm your nervous system before going to bed. If you have access to an outdoor space or a yard, make sure to take advantage of it often. Open windows in your living space, get some fresh air, stretch and exercise whenever possible. Acknowledge that it is normal and very maternal to feel fearful of getting infected and not being able to protect your child. But remember that as long as proper precautions are being taken by you and your family everyone will stay safe.

Take time to self-reflect. Continue to maintain a thought log where you can jot down your concerns and fears. Acknowledging that there is a problem, is the first and the most important step in problem solving.  Address your problems by posing a question – ‘Is this problem solvable?’. If it is, then add it to your to-do list for the following day. If the problem is not solvable, then acknowledge it and accept it humbly. Stay informed, take control and stay calm. If practicing your religion or meditation brings you peace then take time to pray or chant.  Consider creating a safety mantra like “I am doing what I can to keep myself and my child safe at all times”. Chant this mantra or may be post it on a wall, mirror or a refrigerator door to help you stay more grounded and calm when you feel anxious. Deep breathe and practice self-soothing activities to calm your physical and mental state.

Make time to have fun. Your mind may be buzzing with ideas or tasks that need to be done before the baby is born. Or maybe you are feeling so overwhelmed that your brain is really not able to focus on any given task. It is ok to feel what you are feeling. No judgements please! Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that feelings change every moment. All times pass and this time shall pass too. Make time to enjoy your pregnancy. Engage in activities that bring you joy. If that means taking a long bath or watching a movie or indulging in a dessert please give yourself the permission to do so.  Pregnancy is hard work and you are doing a great job!

If you are a direct caregiver to a pregnant woman and suspect that you may have the virus, then please take all necessary precautions, seek medical attention and self-quarantine yourself. Wear a mask at home and sanitize your household religiously. Seek additional help if possible from a friend, family member or another caregiver to step in. Know your limits, be a cognizant caregiver and protect yourself and your pregnant partner. 

Please remember that COVID-19 is a disease but  pregnancy is not. Take time to celebrate the joys of pregnancy. Every birth is a miracle. Be compassionate to yourself and/or your pregnant partner. Enjoy and celebrate this special time in your life.

Vision for Week 8: We say goodbye and conclude our journey together. We will take time to reflect on the people and learnings that we have included in your journey of compassion and acceptance. We look forward to our final next week with you.

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