I want to address the experience of pregnancy, not just from a professional mental health perspective, but also on a personal level. As someone who is still (somewhat) newly pregnant at 13 weeks, I am trying to find my footing in this crazy world and reconcile my pregnancy with the current pandemic. Becoming pregnant is already a mixed bag of emotions and experiences! Add COVID-19 into the mix and my head is spinning.
I don’t know how to feel anymore.
Women are told that pregnancy is an amazing, joyful time and to embrace every change and nuance our bodies go through. Well even before COVID 19 ramped up, my excitement was mixed with anxiety and just generally feeling crappy and exhausted, thanks first trimester! I had been looking forward to the end of my first trimester and the hopeful exit of morning sickness, fatigue and the hormonal roller coaster being replaced with increased energy, excited planning for the baby and celebrating with family and friends. What I am left with at this time is a feeling of increased anxiety; worry about what is to come and the unknown, I do not feel joy.
I do not feel joy.
I feel an unexpected surge of sadness and loneliness.I fully recognize we are all feeling a sense of loss and sadness to some extent. This pandemic and social distancing is certainly a challenging time and a communal experience of grief. So why am I having a hard time finding solace from that? I’m honestly surprised by the extent of profound loneliness I am currently feeling. My situation during COVID 19 looks very much the same as everyone else. There’s so much I still have to be grateful for, I am safe and have stability. I’m not experiencing a loss of income. We have enough food and toilet paper. We are comfortable in our home and have safe outside space.Again, why and what right do I have to feel this way?
If this was a client expressing guilt over their feelings to me, I would stop them and tell them they are allowed to have their feelings and however they are feeling is legitimate.
Is it enough to just name how I’m feeling? My professional training and indeed the very same techniques I use with clients tell me I must trace the roots of my anxiety and worry. I need to identify the core cause. So, what did I identify?
I do not feel connected to a community of other pregnant women to voice my worries and hear from other’s experiences.
Trusted professionals do not have answers for my demographic. I feel isolated because 1: So few people in my social circle even know I’m pregnant right now and 2: I’m scared to talk about my pregnancy and this has held me back from confiding in others. A lot of my friends are young and healthy, they are not worried for their own health on the same level I am. I feel vulnerable and don’t know how to relate to friends right now.
Why, as a professional, am I sharing this very personal experience with you?
Because I want to practice what I counsel! As someone who has been providing anxiety therapy in St. Louis, I want to name my experience out loud in the hopes that I can give a voice to others as well. I always encourage my clients if they feel safe to do so, to share their experiences.
Connection is a powerful weapon against feelings of isolation, loneliness, sadness.
As I have encouraged my clients many times, I am giving myself permission to sit with my feelings, to acknowledge them, but to not allow them to overwhelm my life. What is my action step? I need to find my community. Luckily, I recently have been able to join a social media group through my birthing center. I am hopeful I will be able to connect and share experiences with this group of women online. I encourage any expecting mother, reach out to your providers and find out what community groups exist. If you are already a part of virtual neighborhood groups, ask for suggestions of local pregnancy groups available. Lastly if I was the therapist in this situation, what would I encourage? To trust your friends and family to be able to support you, do not let a fear of being a burden on others stop you from expressing yourself.
The last concern I want to address that has been a big part of my fear, is the fear of the unknown.
I am a person who thrives off of information and knowledge. I feel more confident and secure when I can order my world around logic and reason. One of the most challenging realities of COVID 19 facing pregnant women right now is the complete lack of known and reliable information about how pregnant women are affected. Most of the information that exists is about women in their third trimester. So great, I just need to make it through the next 15 or so weeks and that will be relevant to me. Another strategy I use with clients to address anxiety is to have them list what they can control and what is out of their control. Then we use this list to plan for what they can control. I know reliable information, however little currently exists will help me feel more confident in planning around what I can control. I want to feel as informed as possible and do my part for the community, myself, and my baby. So I am sharing what reliable and verifiable information I have been able to find:
The CDC states pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses. Pregnant women should do the same things as the general public to avoid infection.
According to an article on Baby Center in collaboration with the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine; In answer to the question: Am I more at risk for COVID 19 if I am pregnant? So far, it doesn’t look like it.Pregnancy does change your immune system in ways that might make you more susceptible to viral respiratory infections like COVID-19. And if you become infected, you might also be at higher risk for more severe illness compared to the general population. This is what we’ve seen in pregnant women with other coronavirus infections (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV) and other viral respiratory infections, such as flu. But based on limited data so far, this does not appear to be the case with COVID-19.
If you still feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty, you may want to seek anxiety therapy in St. Louis. That should go a long way in making you feel more in control of your situation.
Congrats to all the expecting moms out there on your new journey!
Pregnancy is an emotional time for every woman. With the ongoing pandemic coming into the picture, it is only natural for pregnant women to have doubts and questions about their as well as their unborn baby’s health and wellbeing. Hopefully, this post has put some of these fears to rest. The best to fight pandemic-related fears is through the right knowledge from the right sources.
Set up an appointment with St. Louis Therapists today
It is important for expectant mothers to be in a positive state of mind during their pregnancy. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything and brought in immense uncertainty and doubts. If you’re grappling with unanswered questions and uncertainties, help is at hand. Call our expert therapists at (314) 370-5531 or click here if you’re in need of counselling and therapy that helps you feel supported.