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New moms try to combat pandemic isolation: 'It feels like the world is closing in at times'

Mental health can be a challenge as a new mom so right now health care professionals say it's even more important to be aware and take care.

BOISE, Idaho — Having a new baby is a big life event. It can be stressful, especially right now, in the midst of a pandemic. 

"It feels like the world is closing in at times," said KTVB meteorologist Bri Eggers, who recently gave birth to her second child.

For Eggers, the second time around has been more challenging.

"This is not the world I imagined I'd be raising my babies in," she said. "I thought I'd go with my friends on stroller walks, and wear my baby to Kohl's to pick out the cute outfits and whatever. It's just not the case."

The situation was rough even before her daughter, Colbi, was born. 

"So we had our first ultrasound where Sean could come with me and he got to listen to the heartbeat and then he could not come to any other appointment," Eggers said. "I think that's the saddest thing about being pregnant through all of this, especially for first-time moms. Mommy has to go alone to every appointment."

Now that Colbi has arrived, a lot of anxiety comes too. Especially during a pandemic when there is a big feeling of isolation.

"As if being a new parent and having a new baby isn't hard enough, you're adding in so much extra worry," Eggers said.

According to Trista Kovach, a perinatal counselor at Saint Alphonsus in Boise, the pandemic has affected new and expecting moms in multiple ways.

"The top three things I'm hearing are, one, not being able to have enough in-person visits for prenatal care, not being able to have big family celebrations at the birth, and isolation," Kovach said. "The biggest thing we want is for moms to not be isolated."

Kovach helps new moms find ways to manage their added stress. Even before COVID-19, she said, the number of moms in distress was alarming.

"So pre-pandemic rates of depression and anxiety were about 15 to 20 percent, and there was one [study] done by Harvard and they surveyed 7,500 women over 10 days in 68 countries and found women are experiencing clinically significant depression and anxiety at 70 percent," Kovach said. "So we're talking a huge leap. I think what it does is sheds light on how serious this is even prior to the pandemic."

Kovach has some advice for new moms having a rough time right now.

"Being at home, change your thinking a little bit," she said. "When you're focused on what you can't do it makes you feel really bad. So take a minute to switch your environment. Walk into a different room and take a deep breath. If you have a crying baby put the baby down and take a minute and come back to it."

And don't forget to take care of yourself.

"That self-care piece is just so important, and I know people are tired of hearing that, but if it's ever been more important it is now," Kovach said. "So we're really advocating to be paying attention to basics. Making sure you're looking at your sleep, you are getting food and hydration, and you're moving your body."

Eggers says getting outside has worked really well for her.

"Find ways to put the baby down to paint your toenails or just take a hot shower or put on a face mask," she suggested.

Most importantly, though, Eggers says to be aware of your emotions. She watches hers closely, and so does her husband. 

"As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression without the postpartum stuff tacked onto it we have been very careful, cautious and aware of signs and symptoms and get it before it becomes a bigger issue."

The Boise Family Center has a lot of resources for new moms, like virtual new mom groups and counseling. They can be reached at 208-367-7380.

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