Mental health for mothers-to-be

The COVID-19 Pandemic’s effect on the mental health of pregnant patients

By Hayley Diep

There is no doubt that the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has altered the way Americans live, from the way we  do our weekly grocery shopping all the way to how we give birth. Precautionary measures have been taken by all establishments across the country in order to help slow the spread of the virus. 

Rochester area health care centers have been heavily impacted by the Coronavirus. Birthing centers have put new rules and guidelines in place that are affecting birthing experiences and moms-to-be, specifically their mental health.

The August Family Birth Place at Unity Hospital in Rochester, NY. 

“My first and second pregnancies were fairly similar” Dana Frisbee, a mother of two, said when comparing her pre-pandemic pregnancy to her pregnancy during COVID-19. “For my second pregnancy, masks were mandatory and waiting rooms were empty. I wasn’t seen by my provider until almost 10 weeks but my first pregnancy I was seen at 6 weeks. Appointments were further apart in my second pregnancy.” Local OB/GYN’s put off seeing their patients until absolutely necessary to avoid crowding in their offices.

“In regards to birth, I couldn’t have my mom or full support team like at my birth. I was only allowed my partner and doula. After my first birth we had many visitors and went home after 48 hours. My second birth we had no visitors and had to leave after 24 hours.” Due to restrictions built in response to the pandemic, hospitals and birthing centers have limited the amount of support people in the delivery room. According to the text Counselling for Maternal and Newborn Health Care: A Handbook for Building Skills, social support during birth has been found to improve the whole birth experience. Not having access to a support team can cause more stress for the mother-to-be. 

The UR Medicine Highland Hospital logo.

“I struggled with my mental health during my second pregnancy mostly because I was stuck in my house with my toddler or I had to risk both of us getting exposed to COVID” Frisbee said. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. This number is up from 1 in 10 adults who reported these symptoms in 2019. There are many other mothers and fathers out there that can relate to Frisbee, struggling to entertain their children while being stuck inside. 

“My advice would be to find a tribe and lean on them for support. Hire a doula for your birth.” Finding support among family and friends is crucial to get through this trying time, but there are outside sources that you can reach to seek help as well. 

Photo of Dana Frisbee moments after the birth of her daughter Olivia Grace in January, 2021.

March is Women’s History Month, it is only fitting that we celebrate this month by supporting other women. The greatest asset for expectant mothers is seeking help and advice from others, and to know you are not alone amidst difficult times. 

The Mental Health Association of Rochester has posted resources on their website to help locals cope with the struggles the pandemic has brought us. Some of them are listed below. More can be found on the MHA Rochester website at https://www.mharochester.org/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline available 24/7: 1-800-273-8255

Suicide Prevention Center of NY: https://www.preventsuicideny.org/

NY State OMH (Office of Mental Health) Emotional Support Line: 1-844-863-9314



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