It has been shown that social support reduces the risk for prenatal and postpartum depression (PPD).
The Mayo Clinic describes the idea of social support as having peers, friends and/or family in your life who you can turn to for comfort during times of stress (1). During the COVID-19 pandemic, pregnant women experienced a decrease in social support, which makes sense, given mandatory lockdowns, social distancing, masking policies, work from home, and general fear of covid. All these elements that kept us safe also put pregnant women at a higher risk for psychological consequences. We were separated from our support systems. One factor, however, acted as a moderator for the increased possibility for PPD – and that was receiving social support from friends, both in-person and virtually. One study even went so far as to describe these efforts as “protective” against maternal distress (2, 3).
There are a variety of factors that contribute to the feelings of anxiety when you’re pregnant, especially when you’re experiencing pregnancy for the first time.
So adding a worldwide pandemic, isolation, and fear onto that, you’re stuck in what feels like an uphill battle – swerving left and right to avoid the mental potholes of apprehension on the already steep road to parenthood.
As we continue to see a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s important to support the people in our lives as they grow their families.
A little goes a very long way.
As someone who was pregnant and had her first child during the pandemic, I can relate to the above evidence.
In previous blog posts, I have described the strange feeling I get sometimes where I question whether I was ever even pregnant. I think about someone who follows me on Instagram. All seems normal, then a post about being 20 weeks pregnant, then a post about being 9 months pregnant, then the birth of my son, and now all of a sudden I’m a mom with a child. It’s like skipping pages of a book to see how it ends and missing the major plot points throughout. Somehow I’m at the end and only a few people know the story that was written on those skipped pages.
I can remember the silence during a time that should have been filled with hands touching my stomach waiting to feel a kick and hugs from friends as I entered each new trimester. The colleagues who only saw my face on zoom and not my growing belly beneath the screen. I was isolated and shared my fears with few, so when my loved ones remembered important milestones in my pregnancy, it mattered more than they knew.
For all the friends and family of people on their journey to parenthood, I want to share some easy things you can do to show support whether you live nearby, far away, or just want to make a small difference for your pregnant friend or new parents in your life.
Check your Bumpdate app to see when your friend is entering a new trimester, when their next big doctor’s appointment is, or when their kid is having their next birthday. Do something small to show you are thinking of them or lend a helping hand. These small efforts not only show how much you care, but the evidence shows that this type of support makes your friends happy and improves their mental well-being. Being a good friend is good for your health.
We rise by lifting others.