We caught up with registered midwife and antenatal educator Marley Hall (@midwifemarley), who has been working with Lansinoh to conduct Instagram Lives as an interactive way of reaching out to pregnant ladies and mums in lockdown. Given the unusual circumstances that all new mums and mums-to-be have been placed under as a result of the pandemic, we wanted to find out how families and friends can offer their support.
1) What are the biggest mental health problems mums face during a third lockdown?
Research by Lansinoh, who have been supporting breastfeeding mums for over 35 years, found that new and expectant mums’ mental health was impacted by reduced social interactions. 70% of those surveyed reported increased anxiety levels, whilst 60% reported increased levels of loneliness due to not being able to spend this special time with friends or family.
2) How can partners support their wife, fiancé or mother of their child during this time?
The period of welcoming a new child into the world is incredibly exciting, but it can also be a little bit scary, particularly with the current lockdown restrictions. As a partner of a new mum, supporting them at this time can help make things that bit easier.
The best way that you can offer your support is through simply paying attention to what they might need. Often a new mum won’t always voice that she needs help – so just paying attention to when she appears to be feeling that bit extra tired and offering your assistance will be greatly appreciated. Also, help from a practical perspective by cleaning up and cooking dinner – that way she can focus on spending precious time with baby and tending to their needs whilst you support both of them.
3) Have you found that more mums to be are asking for professional support since the lockdown came into force?
The national lockdown has meant we’ve really had to adapt our working practices, which comes with its own challenges. From my personal experience, I have found that more mums have been asking for professional support since lockdown began, particularly online. There has been a 500% rise in queries from expectant and new parents across several social media and web platforms that I actively participate in.
4) What changes have you had to put in place as a midwife in terms of number of visits, people present at appointments and changes to practice?
I personally work independently. I worked in the NHS up until early last year which was pre-lockdown. What I have noticed as an independent midwife, is that more and more women are seeking this type of care in addition to the NHS. This is because of the impact the pandemic has had on their appointments - some midwife appointments have been replaced with telephone or Skype consultations. As an independent midwife, I am able to carry out visits as normal, ensuring that I use PPE and make all efforts to reduce the risk of infection.
5) How can family and friends help out?
There are a number of ways that friends and family can help new mums to make their experience of lockdown a bit easier. These can include:
· Offering to help with practical tasks: Even during lockdown, there are a number of practical things that can really help new mums, such as providing meals, or offering to do a food shop and dropping it off on the doorstep. Women need that mental space to be able to have those self-care moments, which is really important, and having support from family and friends to allow them to do that is really valuable.
· Providing emotional support: As well as practical support, it’s important for new and expectant mums to know that they have the emotional support of their family and friends if it’s needed. Whether it’s through arranging regular virtual meet-ups, or just being at the end of the phone during a midnight feed, these small gestures can make a huge difference. It’s all about checking-in with the new mum – sometimes all they want is to have an adult conversation!
· Going for a walk in a local park, or have a virtual call: Loneliness was one of the biggest effects of the first lockdown on new mums. When the national lockdown restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so within the government guidelines, why not arrange a socially-distanced walk in a local park? This could really help to lift a new mums’ spirits. Even just knowing they have the offer can make the world of difference. However, if you live further away, then why not opt for a zoom call instead?
6) Does a mother's mental health during pregnancy have an influence on the baby once it's born or indeed while it is still inside her?
There have been some studies that have shown increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, can have an impact on the baby’s birth weight. There is also an increased risk of miscarriage in cases with extremely high levels. There have also been some links with maternal stress in pregnancy and a reduced IQ in childhood, along with some other detrimental effects.
7) What are your top tips for reducing anxiety in pregnant mothers during lockdown?
Get as much support as possible. If you are unable to form a bubble with another household, think about setting up a regular discussion group via video chat, with close friends/family, a couple of times a week.
Try to engage in one form of self-care each day. That could be a warm bath with candles, listening to some relaxing meditation music in bed or asking your partner for a gentle massage.
Exercise can also reduce stress, so 15-20 minutes per day of light exercise can be really beneficial. Finally, enrolling on a calm birth/hypnobirthing programme can help to reduce anxiety, as these can give you tools and techniques to keep you calm throughout pregnancy as well as the birth.
8) What sort of things are pregnant mums missing out on because of lockdown and are there ways to recreate these experiences?
It’s important for new mums to try and not look at their experience of a lockdown pregnancy negatively and a good way to think about this is to not focus on the things you’re ‘missing out on’ as such, but rather how those moments can be made even more special.
For example, many mums may have wanted a baby shower which with current restrictions, wouldn’t be possible. However – a virtual gathering could still take place to celebrate this. The same goes for pregnancy announcements. There are some really thoughtful and sentimental ways to announce a new arrival that don’t have to be done in person, such as a thoughtful video message or a sweet card to relatives. Pregnant mums should try to focus on the positive aspects of welcoming their baby and try not to think as though they are missing out on any aspect of their pregnancy journey.
9) Do you think there will be a profound difference in mothers who were pregnant in lockdown and those who weren't in years to come in terms of confidence levels?
I don’t know if there will be huge differences, but certainly in experiences that are shared, such as partners not being able to be involved through the pregnancy and early labour. It would be interesting to look at the 6-week and 3-month breastfeeding rates as I know many are finding it difficult. Even though there is support available, sometimes just knowing where to access it can prove difficult for new mums.
10) What has been the hardest part of lockdown for you as a midwife?
The lockdown period has brought new challenges and obstacles that are unlike any other that have been faced throughout my career. One of the things I’ve found most difficult has been talking to my clients with a face mask on and social distancing. Another thing that has been particularly hard is dealing with the increase in online queries as a result of the pandemic.
You are stronger together: Parenting a newborn is tough; there are very few couples who sail through it without a hitch and experiencing something like that together with all the inevitable ups and downs strengthens your relationship. There is a new found respect for the things your partner is capable of doing when you need them most and the loyalty that is required to stay by your side during the times when you are falling apart... to read more click HERE