Charity Tommy's suggests picnics and buggy walks for new mothers isolated by lockdown
New mothers and pregnant women are being encouraged to find socially distant ways to meet by a charity concerned about maternal mental health in the wake of coronavirus.
Tommy's says that despite lockdown easing its research suggests many expectant or new mums are not getting enough human interaction since the pandemic hit with around two thirds of those asked admitting to not having met up with anyone outside their families in the four months since lockdown began.
Concerns about their health and baby's safety, fears of people coming too close and not knowing anyone in a similar situation to meet up with because of an absence of baby groups and classes are all reasons experts believe many new mothers are not meeting others.
But with loneliness known to raise the risk of conditions such as depression and anxiety, and with as many as one in five women developing a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year after the birth of their baby, the charity said it's vital that parents find a safe way to connect with others.
Close to 800 people were asked about their experiences by Tommy and app Mush, which specialises in bringing mothers together according to where they live or age of their children.
Tommy’s midwifery manager Kate Marsh said it was vital that work was now kick-started to help mothers find ways to gradually begin meeting face to face.
She explained: “We're hearing from many new and expectant parents who aren’t sure where to go for support in lockdown. Tommy's midwives and other healthcare professionals are still here for anyone struggling with physical or mental health concerns during pregnancy and after birth.
"Informal and peer support is really important too, but the pandemic has made it harder to build that network of ‘mum friends’, so we’re keen to help kickstart those connections with our fantastic online community. It’s understandable to be anxious but there are lots of ways for mums to socialise safely.”
Socially distanced buggy walks or picnics in wide open spaces whilst the weather is still good are amongst the activities midwives suggest can be safely enjoyed. Whilst online communities such as Tommy's PregnancyHub can support women virtually who are still classed as vulnerable or who need to continue shielding.
Mush founder Katie Massie-Taylor said: “Getting out and seeing other women going through the same thing as you makes a huge difference to your ability to cope with the huge transition to motherhood, let alone enjoy it!
"We heard from our community how hard it has been for them in the last few months, and we want to make sure they know that now is the time to safely start socialising again, and reaping the benefits from a peer support network.”
Midwives at Tommy’s saw a staggering 80% rise in demand for their advice through the charity’s Pregnancy Line in the first month of lockdown, as the pandemic left expectant and new parents struggling to get the support they need. Mums can also find relevant coronavirus information and guidance on the Tommy’s website, as well as asking questions to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant through new Tommy’s Midwife voice skill.
To find local women at the same stage of pregnancy or with a baby the same age, download the free Mush app or look up #mushmums on social media. For midwife-led information and support visit tommys.org/pregnancy.