Mental health and wellbeing tips for women who are pregnant or have recently given birth during the pandemic

Page last updated: 07/05/2020 at 15:05 | Available in Welsh (ar gael yn Gymraeg)

Drawing of a heavily pregnant woman taking a walk in the park while holding her baby bump1)  TRY TO CREATE A ROUTINE, WHERE POSSIBLE

Something that can help sustain or improve mood can be a simple, flexible routine that offers a bit of structure and reassurance. This could involve  writing down a daily schedule and putting it somewhere where you can easily refer to it. Of course, if you have children or a baby, your routine can be shaped around any routines that you may be making for them, however loosely.

To help fill your schedule, you could first make a list of mental, physical and social activities to choose from (see below for some top tips and ideas). Then, if possible, add a mix of these activities to each day, as this can be really beneficial to adults, children and babies.

However, if your day turns into more of a free flow, don’t worry or feel guilty. If you have a baby or children, sticking to a routine can be difficult. And sometimes a lack of structure for a while is exactly what everyone needs and can bring its own rewards.

Top tips for mental, physical and social activities
      1. Keep activities short and simple.
      2. Set yourself realistic targets for each activity, ie don’t overstretch yourself.
      3. Try to do a mix of things you normally enjoy at home and some new things you might like to try. It might be cooking something different or drawing a doodle or making a card – give it a try, even for just a few minutes
      4. Put time aside (however short) to relax or chill out. This could involve ‘doing nothing’, which is fine, or doing something that relaxes you.
      5. Contact family and friends. Getting in touch with other people is usually good for us.
      6. Think about planning when you’ll do certain activities. This way you’re more likely to do an activity, and it can make you look forward to each one too.
      7. If you’re supported by someone else in your home, ask them to plan your activities with you. If it helps to make you feel good, ask them to take part in your activities.
      8. If you have a baby or young children, you may want to get them involved in some of the activities that make you feel good, e.g. dancing to some music with your baby.
Activity ideas:

Mental

      • Create a wellbeing plan or make daily entries in a journal. You can find some tips on how to do this at Maternal Journal.
      • Take weekly photographs of your bump or baby. Write down developmental changes.
      • Read to yourself or your baby.
      • Sing to your baby.
      • Make up a story for your baby. You could do it with a partner or another child.
      • Draw your baby or something in your home.
      • Listen to some music you enjoy.

Physical

      • If possible, keep doing things you would normally enjoy or get satisfaction from
      • Go for a short local walk.
      • Self-massage or massage your baby.
      • Have a bath by yourself or with your baby.
      • Exercise daily, indoors (there are now lots of online classes) or outdoors.
      • Once a week, go for a longer walk to somewhere new.
      • If you have some outdoor space, do a spot of gardening or tend to your houseplants.

Social

      • Phone or video call a relative or friend. Talk about something you’ve done, share a photo of you or baby or anything!
      • Organise a virtual activity with someone, e.g. do your maternal journal with a friend.
      • Send messages from your baby, even if it’s not born yet. Imagine what your baby would like to say to someone, and maybe add a photo too.
      • Find out if there’s a group for pregnant women or new mums you can join. Many now offer activities like online music, singing, yoga and exercise sessions.
      • Do something kind for someone, such as sending a birthday card, buying groceries for an elderly neighbour or putting up a greeting in your window. An act like this usually makes us feel good, with or without any thanks!

Please remember that it is okay if your plans for an activity or even your whole day have to change or don’t work out. Try your best to be flexible and be kind to yourself.


Drawing of a woman laying in bed awake2)  A HEALTHY MIND AND BODY

At the moment, many of us may feel worried, and even upset, about what’s going on in the world. To help manage and reduce any low moods or anxiety, you may find the following helpful:

1.  Try to catch specific thoughts that may be making you feel low. Look for what’s going through your mind while you are feeling anxious or upset.

2.  Check whether these thoughts are indeed accurate, healthy and compassionate for you.

3.  If not, try to replace these thoughts with more accurate, healthy and compassionate ones.

4.  Try to remind yourself to do this whenever you realise you’re having these thoughts.

Be kind to yourself
Another good strategy is to consider what you would say to a good friend if they were having the thoughts you are having. This is because we often talk more harshly to ourselves than we do to our friends.

You could also try simple free online therapy for mums or mindfulness to help improve your mental wellbeing. Often it is not possible to completely remove or replace unhelpful thoughts. But you can learn ways to live with them or soften them slightly, without reacting to them.

It may also help to remind yourself that you are not alone. Most pregnant women and new mums will be having similar thoughts to you at the moment. That’s because everyone’s plans for their pregnancy, labour, delivery and early days with their baby are likely to have changed in some way because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Finally, some good things, some real silver linings, may have come out of this extraordinary time. If that’s the case, enjoy and cherish them. However, if you feel like there are no positives, don’t worry. Just be as kind to yourself as possible.

Read more tips on dealing with anxiety and low mood

Small steps can make a big difference
If you are feeling anxious and / or have low mood, this can seem overwhelming at times. However, if there’s something you know you can do to alleviate these feelings a little bit, no matter how small, it can often help and make things more bearable.

So if you feel up to it, try to think of things you can realistically change or do to make you feel less worried or upset. If this requires help, try your best to ask for this help, whether it’s from someone you live with, a person you can contact, or an organisation that can offer support.

If you do try to change or do something but find it too difficult, don’t worry. Simply move on to the next thing on your list and attempt that instead. Any small wins you achieve, no matter how trivial they may seem, will be worth the effort.

Try to look after your physical health to boost your mental health
Some of the ways pregnant women and new mums can improve their overall health to help improve their mental health are:


Drawing of a baby, infant and toddler smiling and holding their arms out3)  BEING WITH YOUR BABY

What your baby needs most is you. It’s a scientific fact that your face is the most interesting thing in the world to your baby. Also, in the first year or two, your baby will learn faster than at any other time in its life. And even during your pregnancy your baby can sense and learn from what is happening in the outside world and how you’re feeling.

Therefore, simply being with your baby and involving it in your daily activities is enough right now. You don’t need to worry if you can’t or don’t want to go out a lot, or you can’t meet with others.

It’s also important to remember to take breaks when you can and be kind to yourself, which will in turn benefit your baby.

Dads, partners and other children
If you’re living with a partner, this time can be a special opportunity for them to build their relationship with your baby, which will be important to both of them for the rest of their lives. This is something you can do together, and they can enjoy one-on-one time with baby too.

Tips for partners on bonding with your baby

If you have other children, you may also find it helpful to involve them with activities you do with your baby if that’s possible.

Watch and encourage your baby’s amazing development
You can access helpful information about your baby’s development during and after pregnancy through a range of tools.

Here are five examples:

1.  Films in the Baby Buddy App: during pregnancy and after birth

2. NCT

3.  Start 4 Life

4.  BBC’s Tiny Happy People

5.  NSPCC’s Look, See, Sing, Play


Drawing of a woman sat at a laptop looking confused4)  FOCUS ON INFORMATION YOU CAN TRUST WITHOUT OVERLOADING YOURSELF

Currently, you may be sourcing a lot of information about COVID-19 and related issues through news stories and social media. As a result, you may feel a little overwhelmed, and this potential excess of information may be causing you additional worry and anxiety.

To help with this issue, try to only access the information you and your family need to stay informed. This could involve you setting specific times to go online to seek information, or only watching certain news programmes.

It may also help if you only access information from reliable sources. To help you do this, we have provided the following links:

Parenting and COVID-19
Coping with a crying baby during COVID-19
Support for dads and partners during COVID-19
Domestic violence during COVID-19
The UK government’s advice is that you do not have to isolate at home if you need to escape domestic abuse.

The Mental Health Foundation has produced guidance for people in abusive relationships who stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Women’s Aid (all of UK) and the Welsh government’s Live Fear Free helpline (0808 80 10 800) can offer support to victims of abuse or violence.

And Respect provides a helpline (0808 8024040) to help men and women stop hurting the ones they love.

Breastfeeding during COVID-19
Housing and COVID-19

Drawing of a health care professional wearing a mask and holding a sign that says, "We are still here for you"

5)  IT’S OKAY TO SEEK HELP AND SUPPORT

There are times in all our lives when we need the help and support of other people. If you need help with your mental health right now, try not to be worried or afraid about asking for that support and making good use of it.

Talk to your partner or a family member or friend (or a support organisation) about how you’re feeling to engage their support. There will always be times in the future when you can pay back kindness shown to you.

Remember that health professionals and voluntary support organisations are still available. They want you to contact them if you need their support.

Even though you may be physically isolating, you are not alone.

 

 


Please note that the MMHA is not responsible for the content of any of the links above but hopes that they may provide comfort and help at this time.