Being a new parent is difficult in the best of times, but when you factor in isolation in the midst of a global pandemic, experts say it’s taking a toll on mental health.
“New parents right now are facing a lot of challenges,” said Sara Beckel, a perinatal health coordinator at the Regina Perinatal Health Network.
“New parents are just not getting that support from other parents and that ‘me too’ part of parenthood when you’re all up at 2:00 a.m. and you’re all feeding these babies. That solidarity with parents is missing.”
Beckel provides social support to new and expecting parents who she said are being impacted by isolation in a big way.
A recent study in Frontiers in Global Women’s Health shows that prior to the pandemic, 29 per cent of new moms said they experienced symptoms of anxiety, while 15 per said they experienced symptoms of depression.
But during the pandemic, those numbers nearly tripled, with 72 per cent of new moms reporting symptoms of anxiety and 41 per cent experiencing depression.
“It’s a number that should be alarming,” Beckel said.
“We know that untreated mental health complication has a direct complication on early childhood development and that is something we are trying to close the gap and raise awareness for.”
When new mom Cynthia Sanders found out she was pregnant with her son Malcolm last August, she was thrilled.
“We had been trying for so long and I had this vision of how I would spend my mat leave and what I would do. I had visions of travel and having moms brunches” Sanders said.
Fast forward several months later and Sanders would come to face obstacles she never imagined.
Not only was little Malcolm born 11 weeks premature, but a global pandemic would also force the new mom into isolation.
“It’s lonely and it’s hard and being a new mom, everyone says it’s hard but this is just an additional layer,” Sanders said.
Sanders is also considered high risk due to a kidney transplant and she said going anywhere is just too risky.
“I’m worried if something happens to me I wouldn’t be able to take care of (Malcolm),” Sanders said.
“I think there is a little bit of a level of anxiety, you know more worry if I bring something home or if my husband brings something home.”
Through it all, Beckel said online groups and snapping lots of photos can help bring a sense of normalcy to every day life.
“Take lots of pictures, do the dress up and the things you normally would and find a way to do it in a creative new way because you’ll want that later,” Beckel said.
“Make the connections as best you can and above all journal if you’re feeling things are very heavy and can’t quite make sense of it, it’s always a good thing to write a journal.”
Although Sanders said she has plenty of pictures, it’s the help she said she’s missing the most and the family Malcolm has yet to meet.
“When they say it takes a village to raise a child it’s true and we did it and he’s still here but I think that’s something for the parents we’ve missed out on,” Sanders said.