First-Time Pregnancy During a Pandemic: The Honest Truth
While many anticipated a “baby boom” as a result of the pandemic and many couples spending more time alone at home with one another, studies show that there has been a significant decrease in both planned and unplanned pregnancies during this time. But what about those who did conceive during this international crisis – especially those who are experiencing their very first pregnancy during such a unique time in history? The following is based on interviews conducted with first-time moms experiencing pregnancy mid-pandemic and what they want other mothers to know about pregnancy in general as well as during a time of worldwide uncertainty.
As with any pregnancy, the physical changes to one’s body during a pandemic pregnancy are no different. In addition, it is important to remember that everyone has a different pregnancy experience. Common physical changes during pregnancy include patches of skin discoloration on the face, stretch marks on the belly, changes in breast and nipple size, backaches and round ligament pain, increased frequency of urination, fatigue, and increased risk for urinary tract infections and yeast infections. Many mothers also experience morning sickness (which doesn’t always happen in the morning), nausea, and heartburn. What our interviewees felt was imperative for expecting mothers to know is that some things that may be described as “uncomfortable” can actually fall along the pain spectrum so it is important to advocate for yourself and your needs. In addition, many people don’t talk about the grief that your body will be forever changed and for the autonomy one loses when sharing their body with another human being. Lastly, many mothers swear by exercising before or early on in the pregnancy before you lose the energy to, investing in a sleep pillow that allows you to comfortably sleep on your left side, and engaging in pelvic floor exercises.
Your body isn’t the only thing in your life that undergoes change when you become pregnant – your relationships are affected too! Many new mothers report feeling isolated or lonely when entering motherhood; this feeling may be even more pronounced due to the pandemic and social distancing measures. Some mothers report that other people expect new mothers to only feel excitement about being pregnant and to enjoy everything about the experience; however, many report feeling a range of emotions and feeling pressure to do everything perfectly.
Your Support System
Many pregnant mothers reveal that while others are more likely to react positively to them asking for help and to be concerned about their physical needs such as hunger or being on their feet too long, some feel like they have lost relationships or that they have become “mommified” in their relationships – meaning they are now seen as being a mother before anything else. Some also describe a lack of privacy and feeling that loved ones tend to focus on making sure the baby will be well-taken care of rather than ensuring the mother also feels supported, safe, and loved during this time. While there are certainly new stressors that require boundaries with friends, family, and one’s partner, new mothers thrive when they have a strong support system built-in – not only for their newborns but also for themselves.
Impact on Mental Health
With all of these new changes physically and relationally, it makes sense that expecting mothers experience a major adjustment in their mental health experiences – especially when also enduring the collective trauma of living through a pandemic. The drastic shift in hormones also contributes to cycling through emotions including feelings around the pregnancy in general whether you feel happy and excited about the milestone or experience anger, sadness, worry, and even absolute dread. Mothers want you to know that any feelings are normal and okay, especially if your pregnancy experience is complicated by health challenges, was unplanned, or was difficult to achieve. Aside from weird dreams, brain changes, and a rollercoaster of emotions, some may feel mental health symptoms associated with the stages of grief. Many mothers report not feeling like themselves anymore and not feeling like they are in control of their bodies due to reacting differently to foods and smells and sharing their bodies with their babies.
A Unique Challenge
In addition, at the end of the pregnancy, mothers are not looking forward to rest but instead worrying about caring for a newborn infant full-time. Many new moms may worry about the consequences of bringing a child into the world and wonder if they will do something wrong that will negatively impact the baby. These anxieties are normal, and the most important piece is to come from a place of compassion knowing that you are only human and are doing the best you can. Being pregnant during a pandemic is a unique challenge, and there isn’t exactly a guide on how to navigate this situation or the feelings that come with it. Take advantage of any free resources in your local community, and nurture a strong support system – even if from a distance.
Embrace Therapy Can Help
As for your mental health, contact Embrace Therapy to set up an appointment with a competent and understanding therapist who can support you through this tumultuous time. You don’t have to do this alone because, after all, it takes a village.