Pregnancy during the midst of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic is naturally fuelling more anxiety and uncertainty than it normally does, as options and information changes and we all navigate a time of unknowns.
The present situation also sits on top of what we individually might carry into pregnancy such as loss, fertility journeys and different physical experiences of pregnancy too and it’s all compounded by the current societal shifts.
This adds to the anxiety as usually in times of change such as pregnancy and parenthood, society holds a steady net for us to return to, a place we identify ourselves with when the discomfort of transformation is happening, it is this holding that we can also feel the loss of. Plus the loss of vital human connections that we are social creatures rely on, none of this is separate to the experience of pregnancy at this stage, it’s all going into one big pot that is this experience.
Alongside all this, you’re probably experiencing physical changes too and dealing with changes to work, lifestyle, finances too and also spending more time indoors due to recommended social distancing or self –isolating.
Whatever your circumstances, it’s normal to have mixed responses, perhaps including familiarity, restriction, disappointment, enjoyment or anxiety.
Having ways to navigate and manage these emotions and reducing stress are useful for your overall wellbeing during this time of COVID-19 outbreak.
Get the benefits of the outdoors, even indoors:
Being in green spaces is good for mental health and also stress levels, experiencing nature helps regulate our nervous system and this in turn supports our hormones and physical wellbeing:
- If you have an outdoor space pop out, if you don’t try getting comfy by an open window.
- Listen to the sounds, give them a name and image in your mind.
- Feel the air on your skin, inhale and notice the smells
- Take a few minutes and breathe deeply
- Notice the colours and images around you.
If you don’t feel there is headspace for this (sometimes we just can’t engage), try looking at images of green and natural spaces, or open a window and freshen the air.
Move, wherever you are
If you feel comfortable to, the UK government guidance allows a 30 minute walk / outdoor exercise for those distancing (not self-isolating) and that can be of great benefit for mind and body.
If you are indoors you can use online classes such for yoga, Pilates or fitness, there are live classes and also free resources on YouTube.
Even moving and stretching a few times a day can help to change mood and thought patterns that may be unhelpful or overwhelming. Try breathing in deeply and lifting your arms over your head and slowly lowering them as you gently breath out through your mouth. Or make it fun, put some tunes on that lift your mood and dance like no one is watching (in a pregnancy safe way of course!)
Movement helps reduce stress and can be useful preparation for birth, gently strengthening and finding positions to support your physical journey whilst also supporting your mental wellbeing.
Look after your mind
There is so much on the news, on social media and around us about Coronavirus, it’s important to look at how this information impacts us. An easy way to do this is to check in how you feel whilst watching / absorbing; what happens to your muscles, breath, heart rate? If you find them elevated then the likelihood is your sympathetic nervous response has been triggered and you are in a stress response (fight, flight or freeze). If you’re finding this you might want to limit how much you absorb or when and how, setting boundaries around the information you take in can put you more back in the driving seat of dealing with it.
Stress is a normal part of an extraordinary process like this but managing it is also important for feeling empowered & being able to make clearer calmer decisions and see options. Binary ‘black and white’ stress thinking this helps us make quick decisions but also blocks out the nuances and creative options of the wider picture and can leave us feeling stuck in our options.
When we are considering our birth experiences, this is important. Stress changes the part of the brain we use, setting off an alarm system response and shutting down higher decision making, it also influences how we absorb and remember our experiences.
Sitting with this uncertainty and ambiguity is not easy, its uncomfortable and can feel overwhelming, when we reduce stress it is likely that we will also feel more, so having tools to hold these emotions is also important, in our Facebook Community we’re offering daily perinatal wellbeing support to all, if you’d like to join click here.
Taking a little time out each day to enjoy some long slow deep breaths or listen to relaxing music, audios or sounds can help us find pockets where our mind can rest. Taking that one step further, sleep is important in processing these unprecedented events, getting the best you can (not always easy especially in later pregnancy) is useful.
Humans are social beings, we need connection with others for our physical and mental health, this obviously is impacted by social distancing so stay connected. Technology has it pros and cons but at the moment the pros are something to engage with, using technology to see and contact loved ones, support networks and information.
If you live with trusted or intimate, you can use hugs, eye contact and speaking to keep the important need for human connection going.
Having a baby at this time is naturally causing more anxiety than usual as there are different processes and emotions to navigate but taking care of your wellbeing, feeling informed and knowing that your experience still matters is an important part of this transition, especially at this time.
Sakina Ballard is Founder of Real Birth Project offering tools, information and support from pregnancy to parenthood. During COVID-19 pandemic, all work is online.
How simply moving benefits your mental health Srini Pillay, MD
RCOG Coronavirus COVID-19 Updates
Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash