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Mental health advice for soon-to-be and new parents during coronavirus

Getting ready to give birth or being a new parent is exciting - and scary - for anyone. The flood of new emotions and experiences can feel overwhelming. Many people aren’t used to these highs and lows so can often feel anxious during this time. With the coronavirus outbreak happening people may be even more worried than usual.

It’s important that you pay attention to your mental health when pregnant or after having a baby, especially at the moment. We have put together some tips to help new mums and parents cope during these difficult times.

Understanding your mental health

Looking after your mental wellbeing isn’t just important for you, it is important for your baby too. They might just be a wee tiny thing, but they can pick up on your stress whether it’s during pregnancy or after they’re born.

You might feel a lot of pressure to care for your new baby, pressure that feels stronger due to the coronavirus outbreak. You might be worried about other things as well, like the health of loved ones, your job, or getting sick yourself.

Depression and anxiety can be common for soon-to-be and new mums. It is understandable that this might be made worse by the current crisis. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and that there is a lot of support available to you. If you’re worried about how you are feeling, you can talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor. It is also important to remember that this period will not last forever and that by following physical distancing advice you are protecting yourself, your baby, and your community.

Changes to maternity services

The way some maternity services are being delivered is changing due to coronavirus. The changes might be different depending on where in Scotland you are. Your midwife or health visitor will keep you up to date with what’s happening in your area. Don’t be afraid to ask if you are worried how these changes may affect you. You can also visit NHS Inform for more information.

Any changes that are being made are for you and your baby’s safety. You might be worried about going to hospital due to coronavirus. This is a normal feeling. All NHS staff have strict guidelines to keep all patients as safe as possible. Speak to your midwife if you are concerned.

You might be worried about who will look after older children when you go into labour or how to manage if any of your family are self-isolating. Discuss this with your midwife at an early stage, they can help you create a plan.

Tips for your mental health

Tip #1: Talk about your feelings

Speak to your partner or talk to your friends and family over the phone about how you feel. You might be physically distancing but don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Talking through your worries can help a great deal.

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Tip #2: Be prepared

If you are pregnant it is a good idea to know what changes you might have to make to your birth plan due to the current situation. Having a stand-in birth partner might be a good idea if your first-choice birth partner is sick or showing symptoms.

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Tip #3: Rest

Whether you are preparing to give birth or already have a newborn in the house, it is important to get as much rest as you can. This might be easier said than done, but try to sleep when they sleep, or let your partner help if they are at home with you.

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Tip #4: Take it a day at a time

Try and focus on the here and now. Each day is exciting enough when you’re preparing for life with a baby or getting used to them being here. Don’t worry too much about the future and things you can’t control. Maybe keep the news to a minimum, stick to trusted news sources and maybe just check them once a day. Social media can be a great way of finding positive stories and can be a way to access peer support.

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Tip #5: Don’t worry about being a supermum

Mums often put extra pressure on themselves, try to cut yourself some slack and accept that looking after your baby is a full time job! Everyone in the household may not manage to get all the housework done all the time. As long as your baby is happy and healthy you are doing a great job.

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Advice for dads and partners

This can be a scary time for you too. It is understandable that you might be worried about your partner. Keep up to date with the most recent developments by checking reliable sources like the Scottish Government or NHS Inform websites. But try not to get overwhelmed by the news at the moment.

Due to coronavirus there may be changes to maternity care that may be frustrating. It is important to remember at this time that any changes are designed to keep mum and baby safe. Reach out for support from other family members if you are finding this period hard, talking things over can make a big difference.

You may also feel worried about how you will deal with becoming a parent. Here are some tips to help. 

Tips for dads-to-be

Tip #1: Spend time with your baby

Even before your wee one’s born you can spend time talking and singing to the bump! Once they’re born, take every chance to stay close and cuddle them, talk to them and sing to them. They won’t understand what you’re saying, but the sound of your voice will be reassuring.

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Tip #2: Talk to your partner

Even under normal circumstances, things like lack of sleep and downtime can be stressful and may create tension between you and your partner. Try to find the time to talk about the situation – it may not be easy if you’re both exhausted, but it’s worth it!

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Tip #3: Reduce your stress levels

In order to look after your family, you need to look after yourself. Try to eat healthily and exercise when you can, and to make some time for the things you enjoy.

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Tip #4: Don't be afraid to ask for help

There are lots of people out there happy to help! Although friends and family can’t visit at the moment, you can still talk to them about any worries you may have. Be honest about how you’re feeling – it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious or down, particularly in the current situation, but it’s important to get help. Your health visitor is also there to listen and help – they want the best for you, your partner and your baby. 

There are also lots of organisations you can get in touch with – the Fathers’ Network Scotland Directory lists dad-friendly groups and organisations all around the country which provides support, advice or information on your new parenting role.

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Tip #5: Don't forget to have fun

Yes, the arrival of a new baby can be exhausting and stressful, but it’s also wonderful. Don’t forget to enjoy this special time with your wee one. Enjoy lots of cuddles and skin-to-skin time. Take plenty of photos and share them with your friends and family. Relax in the quiet times and savour the peace. You’ve got this!

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Look for support

Remember that you’re not alone – all of us struggle from time to time. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you’re finding it all a bit much.

It is important to remember you can still access support during this time.

There’s help and advice on the NHS Inform website and here at Parent Club. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website also has advice on keeping safe during pregnancy.