Virtual Support Sessions Help Perinatal Women During Coronavirus Crisis

By Barbara Sheehy, MS, CommonSpirit Health Perinatal Behavioral Health Director

05/13/20 COVID-19 ,   Latest updates

According to 2020 Mom, up to one in five perinatal women in the U.S. suffers from anxiety or depression, and that’s without the added stress of giving birth during a pandemic. CommonSpirit Health’s Taking Care of Mama program is helping support pregnant women and new moms in these challenging times.

It’s not uncommon for mental health conditions to emerge during pregnancy or postpartum, affecting not only the health of the woman but also the health of her infant and the entire family. COVID-19 only adds to the stress as mothers worry about an infant’s exposure to the virus; and are limited in the support of loved ones during their labor and birth experience, and at home with their newborn.

CommonSpirit’s Taking Care of Mama program is designed to help fill that gap.  Our ZOOM sessions are facilitated by knowledgeable experts from Maternal Mental Health NOW – clinicians who specialize in the mental health care of pregnant women and new parents and families.  The Taking Care of Mama sessions take place every Tuesday and began in April 2020. Offered in English and in Spanish, sessions are free of charge to CommonSpirit patients and all women across the country. A pregnant or new mom can join one session or join each week. Taking Care of Mama has two rules: confidentiality and no judgement.

More often than not, pregnant women and new moms are reluctant to talk about the anxiety, depression, or substance use struggles they’re experiencing.  There can be a feeling of shame at a time when one is expected to be happy. Many women—and fathers too, in fact—are feeling distressed, fearful, and inadequate. 

The Taking Care of Mama project aims to reinforce three things for women who are suffering: you’re not alone, you’re not to blame, and with help, you will be well. Perinatal depression and anxiety are more common than one might think. These conditions are also treatable, and virtual support groups can help. Groups offer an opportunity to share experiences, build connection, and gain perspective.  Clinician facilitators are able to offer helpful suggestions and tools, and encourage women to seek additional help if needed. 

At CommonSpirit, we see thousands of pregnant women and new moms who are grappling with anxiety and depression. Nearly 1 in 40 babies in the U.S. are delivered at 65 of our hospitals with maternity services. We also know that not all women have access to maternal mental health support groups, even when there isn’t a pandemic. This is one of the reasons why we wanted to offer Taking Care of Mama to women throughout the country. I can only imagine what it must be like to be home with a new baby without the support of extended family or friends. I hope all women in this situation will reach out for the support they need.

If you are looking for a maternal mental health support group for yourself or someone in your life, please contact me at Barbara.Sheehy@DignityHealth.org.

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