'Mental health has taken a real dip ' - New parents' struggle due to pandemic

Portrait of young pregnant woman. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Experts are concerned over the rise in mental health issues in pregnant women and new parents during lockdown. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Charities and mental health experts are seeing a surge in demand from struggling new parents during lockdown.

The coronavirus restrictions prevented many vital experiences, including fewer face-to-face midwife and health visitor appointments, partners being able to attend scans and parts of labour and the ability for new parents to seek reassurance from friends, family and groups.

And it is because of this problems have not been picked up early, creating higher demand for mental health services, according to Dr Rebecca Horne, clinical lead for the Norfolk and Waveney Community Perinatal Mental Health Service, which has helped about 800 people over the past year.


Dr Rebecca Horne, consultant perinatal psychiatrist for the Norfolk and Waveney community perinatal

Dr Rebecca Horne, clinical lead for the Norfolk and Waveney Community Perinatal Mental Health Service. - Credit: NSFT

Dr Horne said: "We are seeing more referrals. We want people to talk to their midwife, health visitor of GP if they are struggling. Intervention needs to be in place to reduce long-term adverse consequences.

"People feel the pregnancy experience has been robbed from them and haven't had the experience they had hoped. It is like a sense of loss. People have also experienced birth trauma and felt alone by not having their partner there at times which has added to an already difficult experience."

She added difficult birth experiences could negatively affect the bond between babies and parents and added it was important the public health message was put out that if people needed help for mental health issues pre and post-pregnancy, they should seek it from health experts.

"If people are not being seen in person some things are not being picked up. Things need to move on from Covid," Dr Horne added.

File photo dated 11/7/2014 of a mother cradles the feet of her new born baby in her hand. The number

Many new parents have struggled in lockdown. - Credit: PA

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Some midwife and health visitor appointments were also carried out in person during lockdown, rather than virtually, if necessary, and Dr Horne said the sector was working hard to see people physically as restrictions are eased.

Partners can now attend midwife appointments, scans and be with loved ones during the whole labour process.

Natalie Spurdens, services manager for Home-Start Norfolk.

Natalie Spurdens, services manager for Home-Start Norfolk. - Credit: Home-Start Norfolk

Natalie Spurdens, services manager from Home-Start Norfolk, which has supported 278 families over the past 18 months, said: "Parents' mental health has taken a real dip. They were not getting the support from health services as much as they would have done pre-pandemic meaning anxiety increased disproportionately. The impact is going to be far-reaching emotionally for parents."

She added problems coming out of less face-to-face support and socialising opportunities included children being too attached to parents. It also put a strain on emotional bonds between babies and parents.

"It is really hard to ask for help at any time but for parents who do, it is real strength," Mrs Spurdens said.

Donna Louise Bishop and husband Ben getting a 4D baby scan at Window to the Womb, Norwich. Photo:Ste

Donna Louise Bishop and husband Ben getting a 4D baby scan at Window to the Womb, Norwich. Photo:Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

Catherine Ashby, perinatal lead for the Norfolk and Waveney Wellbeing Service, said: "We are seeing more women who found it difficult giving birth in the lockdown. Women are also anxious about the unlocking of restrictions and the expectations of having to go out with their babies when they are not used to doing that. The joy of sharing a baby with friends and family has been taken away."

A Generic Photo of a baby being breastfed. See PA Feature FAMILY Breastfeeding. Picture credit shoul

A Generic Photo of a baby being breastfed. See PA Feature FAMILY Breastfeeding. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FAMILY Breastfeeding. - Credit: PA

She added many first-time parents were worried about having another baby because of the lockdown experience.

Visit www.wellbeingnands.co.uk/norfolk/get-support/perinatal_mental_health_support and https://homestartnorfolk.org

New parent hails 'lifesaving' charity telephone support

Jamie Finch, from Great Yarmouth, who has a 15-month-old daughter and eight-week-old son.

Jamie Finch, from Great Yarmouth, who has a 15-month-old daughter and eight-week-old son. - Credit: Jamie Finch

A new mother has described her "tough" experience of raising two babies in lockdown. 

Jamie Finch, 32, from Newtown in Great Yarmouth, had her first child, Penny, on April 2 last year and second child, Joshua, eight weeks ago, at the James Paget University Hospital.

She said: "My mental health dipped after having Penny. It gets quite lonely. But Covid is a virus and I didn't want us getting it so we had to grin and bear it."

Miss Finch added her partner, who has two older children, was not allowed to be with her when she was induced in hospital while having Penny and could only stay with them two hours after her birth, due to restrictions.

To described the telephone support from Home-Start Norfolk for her mental health issues post-birth as a lifesaver.

She said: "In lockdown we would go out now and then for a beach walk but not being able to see my family was difficult, especially for my mum as it was her first grandchild."

The new parents added it was hard to find spaces at mother and baby groups.

Pandemic made me more cautious

Michaela Alberio-Hussey, from Norwich, with her baby boy.

Michaela Alberio-Hussey, from Norwich, with her baby boy. - Credit: Michaela Alberio-Hussey

A former Topshop manager said how the pandemic made her more cautious about going out and meeting other people in the early days with her newborn.

Michaela Alberio-Hussey, 33, from Denmark Road in Norwich, waited six months before her mum held her first grandchild - Elm - who was born at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on April 6 last year.

She said Covid restrictions prevented her son's tongue tie from being cut which meant she struggled with breastfeeding and switched to formula when her son was eight weeks old.

The 33-year-old added: "My husband took six months paternity leave so that helped but when he went back to work it was hard because baby groups were restricted. It would have been nice to do more things with Elm and see more new mums to talk about experiences."