- Prioritize self-care
- Utilize virtual mental health resources
- Stay connected to others
3 Key Points
Content created by Lauren Gaston-Hawkins, University of Michigan Medical School, Class of 2021
The prenatal period can be a time of significant changes to your body and emotional wellbeing. Life stress, the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy, and accompanying hormonal changes can cause stress, anxiety and fatigue that may make it difficult to carry out daily tasks, including caring for yourself and others. The current pandemic can exacerbate many of these challenges. Despite these challenges, there are a number of ways that women in the prenatal period can reduce the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health.
Focus on maintaining a regular routine that centers on self-care and prioritizes nutrition, exercise, sleep and time for self. Try to eat meals at regular times and have a range of healthy snacks easily available. Keep a container filled with water nearby to stay hydrated. To incorporate exercise into your daily routine, start with activities that are enjoyable and easy to do like walking around the neighborhood. Outdoor activities are especially beneficial as long as social distancing protocols are maintained. Good sleep is also vital. Observing good sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a consistent bedtime routine and avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the evenings, can be helpful.
Connect With Mental Health Resources Virtually
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many physicians and therapists are providing telephone or video visits. Psychology Today is one resource to find providers in your area who provide virtual visits. If an emergency situation arises, many hospitals have psychiatric emergency departments that are able to help. There are a range of resources available online to support women with adjusting to the prenatal period. Apps such as Peanut (a social networking app for mothers), MindMum and Lifeline4Moms are also available to assist women who may be experiencing distress in the perinatal period.
Numerous studies have shown the benefit of social interaction in combating the effects of prenatal stress. However, such interactions can become significantly more difficult due to social distancing and stay-at-home directives. Utilize telephone calls and video-conferencing to maintain connection with family and friends when unable to see them in person. If other family members are also at home, this crisis can provide a special opportunity for families to work collaboratively. Structure the division of labor at home amongst family members to optimize sleep, breaks and self-care activities for everyone. Family members can be especially helpful by providing practical assistance such as running errands or performing household chores.