Supporting New Mothers During a Pandemic
The fear and uncertainty of becoming a new mother can be a bit unnerving in the best of times. So, welcoming a new baby during a pandemic can be overwhelming. What can you do to help your friends and family who are expecting or recently had a baby?
To get answers, we talked to three Cameron Medical Group specialists about how to support new mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic. They represent three different departments. The team approach is nothing unusual at Cameron as specialists work together to ensure the best possible care for patients.
Our team is Cameron Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Todd Rumsey, of Cameron Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Susan Frayer of Cameron Pediatrics, and Jenna Shock, a nurse practitioner with Cameron Psychiatry. These experienced specialists answered questions about the best way to support new mothers physically and emotionally during a global pandemic.
Listen to Fears and Concerns
New mothers always have some fears and concerns, but giving birth during a pandemic raises those and brings about new ones. The specialists all recommend listening to the fears and concerns of expectant and new mothers. Let them talk about what is bothering them. However, do not let them wallow in their fears.
Dr. Rumsey says the most common concern he hears from his patients who are expecting is the general uncertainty of the pandemic. There’s already a lot of uncertainty for new parents and the pandemic is certainly adding to that, he says. “But for pregnancies, it’s business as usual. We advise patients to be careful and follow CDC guidelines.”
NP Shock points out that her patients are mourning the loss of expectations. They fear they won’t have the experience they imagined.
Offer Positive Responses
All three providers pointed out that while the pandemic is causing great disruption to everyday life, the increased risk to pregnant women is low. It’s important to remind new parents of this fact.
Dr. Frayer says she personally has not seen a single case of COVID-19 in newborns. She goes on to say, “There’s no evidence that I’ve seen so far that the virus is more prevalent in newborns. In the few cases I’ve read about, the babies have done relatively well. So, it just isn’t something new parents should worry extensively about.”
This is a great lesson for all new parents she says. “You can only control what you can control. Put weight and worry in the right places. The virus shouldn’t be a major concern for your newborn.”
Dr. Rumsey says while pregnancy can change a woman’s immune system, there is still little additional risk of contracting the virus if you follow the guidelines. “Expectant mothers overall have a heightened sense of awareness about their health and well-being. Be smart and avoid unnecessary risk.”
NP Shock says helping women let go of preconceived notions of what should happen is a big asset. “Pregnant women already have a fear of the unknown. The pandemic is adding to that. Giving birth in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t what any of them were expecting.”
Her biggest advice for expectant women and new moms is to try to be as flexible as possible. As she says, “Flexibility is a faster road to happiness.
As an OB/GYN, Dr. Rumsey says birth plans may be different right now. He says to not worry about having a perfect birth plan. Instead he recommends focusing on most important – safely getting to your due date and having a healthy baby.
Like most hospitals, Cameron is now limiting mothers to a single dedicated support person. However, Dr. Rumsey thinks this is actually a benefit, “Most of my patients do not miss having a room full of people. They enjoy having a more intimate birth experience.”
According to all the specialists, one of the biggest concerns new mothers have is going it alone. Due to social distancing, they are worried they won’t have the support they expected after giving birth.
NP Shock explains that her patients want to know all their “what ifs” are covered. She says offering reassurance of their abilities is a good way to counteract these concerns.
“Due to the virus, new parents are more worried about who’s allowed to visit their homes,” says Dr. Frayer. However, she insists she is giving the same advice she always has to new parents, “Right now we are reiterating the importance of hand-washing, limiting visitors and avoiding crowds. All of those are always good ideas when it comes to new babies.”
Creativity is important when offering new parents support right now. Dr. Frayer says help doesn’t only have to come from visiting. She recommends going shopping for new parents or running errands.
Dr. Rumsey says that expectant mothers should form their support group before the baby’s arrival. “Keep a small circle of people who you know are practicing safety measures. That way you can still see people and get support without adding risk to you or your baby.”
“The pandemic has turned up the volume on things expectant and new parents always deal with,” says Dr. Rumsey. He says to remind new parents that it’s a highly emotional time. Their feelings are valid and shared by almost all new parents.
“No one tells you how hard parenting can be at first,” says Dr. Frayer. She points out that there’s immense stress in caring for a new baby. She reassures all her new parents, “It’s okay to get stressed. If your baby is fed and changed, it’s fine to put him down for a bit. Take a mental break before you get to a breaking point.
NP Shock agrees, “All new parents have concerns about if they can do it.” She suggests offering plenty of encouragement and emotional support – even if you can’t be there in person. She also says to remind new moms that they can always reach out for help. “I tell my patients, and all new parents, that seeking help is a strength that enables you to be a better parent.”
Reviewed by: Todd C. Rumsey, MD, FACOG, Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Rumsey is an experienced, board-certified obstetrics and gynecology specialist who also serves as Cameron Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer. To schedule an appointment, call Cameron OB at 260-667-5670.
Reviewed by: Susan Frayer, MD, Cameron Pediatrics
Dr. Frayer is a double board-certified specialist in pediatrics and emergency medicine with more than 15 years of experience. She is now accepting new patients. To make an appointment, call Cameron Pediatrics at 260-667-5690.
Reviewed by: Jenna Shock, PMHNP, Cameron Psychiatry
Jenna Shock is a board-certified psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner who is also licensed to provide psychiatric evaluation and medication management. She is now accepting new patients aged 15 and older. To schedule an appointment, call Cameron Psychiatry at 260-667-5635.