OPINION: Why new mums should be on the vulnerable people list
PUBLISHED: 10:53 13 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:53 13 October 2020
Our parenting columnist says nobody is talking about the pressure lockdown brings on new mums
I’ve been talking a lot about maternal mental health in the midst of a pandemic realising pregnant women have often been left without care from our government. In this new world of living surrounded by a killer virus we’ve created measures to keep our economy floating, strategies to ensure kids are educated and facilitated people going back to work but we still haven’t allowed mothers a hand to hold through what can be one of the most frightening and worrying times in their lives.
Welcoming a baby is very happy but it can also be fraught with anxiety even for a fourth-time mum like me. My face to face appointments have been reduced while telephone conversations with medical professionals haven’t always cut it – not that the maternity team are lacking but more their hands are tied. I’m obviously not new to this so have insisted on more care when needed but thinking back to being pregnant for the first time I’m not sure I’d have felt able to.
I have, in the past, been given news at a scan I wasn’t expecting and though partners are now allowed into the sonography room they have to leave the hospital afterwards.
The thought of being in a similar situation today with my husband then having to leave me while I wait for my bloods to be taken or to see a consultant is utterly terrifying - yet this is what has been happening to women. When it comes to labour we are asked to cope alone until in established movements and then, after the baby is born, the birthing partner is not allowed to stay. After having my third child who was born in a tremendously emergency situation, my husband was allowed to stay with me for the duration - even allowed to stay the night. He physically lifted me to the bathroom, held the baby because I could not, fed and watered me, poured my wee into a bottle to give the midwives, administered medication and looked after us when we absolutely could not look after ourselves. It was necessary for me and I have to wonder what on earth women in similar positions are doing today.
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Numbers have risen for home birth choices as a result. I experienced this with my second baby but through my own volition, I can’t imagine feeling forced into because it because it seems a better alternative to the choice a woman would really like to make.
Birthing partners are welcome to wet their baby’s head with five friends at home but not welcome to stay and look after their new family - baffling. Two people, living in one bubble surely pose no more risk than one person alone yet the aftermath of having that hand held at such a vulnerable time is invaluable to the mental health of the mother. Colief conducted a study of 1001 pregnant women during this time which shows 51% of women have felt isolated during the pandemic both before and after pregnancy. 43% say it has had a detrimental affect on their mental health. I can only imagine these numbers going up because it’s not just prenatal care of women we need to be thinking about but postnatal too.
Becoming a mother for the first time for me I was 100 miles away from family and the only friends I had were work mates. I didn’t know the area where I lived other than to come home to and suddenly being with my baby 24/7 felt lonely and scary in a way I’d never imagined. My midwife told me to go and visit my local SureStart centre (most of these have been cut now) and meet some other mums in similar situations which is what I did and 11 years later I still have this tribe of women holding my back.
We swapped advice, told each other our worries, pounded the pavements together and over the years we’ve drunk a lot of wine together too. It was one of these mums who helped me on a morning when I’d had no sleep and was worried senseless about my happy in the day time baby but who would curl up into an angry, red ball come 11pm screaming in what turned out to be colic. She knew, she told me to visit my Dr and he recommended I give my baby Colief Infant Drops which literally changed our lives. I also picked up other tips like rubbing breast milk into rashes and that baby vests have envelope opening shoulders so that you can roll them down rather than over the head (a revelation for a poonami) and so many more things. They are my true friends and I’d be as lost without them today as I would have been then - poor first time mums today not getting that opportunity to meet their support system.
No wonder so many are suffering with their mental health as a result of being isolated. Having a baby is a shock to the system and can be a terribly lonely place when it’s just you and the baby for the first time. We do need to think about new mums as vulnerable members of society and give them help, assistance and methods of working through this pandemic in as normal a way as possible or we shall end up with a pandemic of postnatal depression as well.
Ruth Davies is a parenting blogger. For more, see www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk
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