Local study details how lockdown increased the pressure of early motherhood

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"Mother baby contact in the early days post-delivery is life-saving". (Kemal Yildirim/Getty Images)
"Mother baby contact in the early days post-delivery is life-saving". (Kemal Yildirim/Getty Images)

The Covid-19 lockdown presented significant challenges for South African mothers, and this was especially noticeable for those experiencing pregnancy, birth and the new parenting phase.

Results from the 2020 Lockdown Babies survey has detailed the challenges they faced, but also revealed that many new mothers showed a strong sense of resilience. 

Of the women surveyed, 20% said they had negative birth experiences associated with challenges related to the lockdown regulations, such as having to face sudden changes to delivery plan, no skin to skin with baby after birth and a lack of access to breastfeeding support.

Also noted by new mothers were  issues caused by not having support due to someone not able to be at the birth, or being diagnosed with Covid-19.

Additionally, the lockdown affected the finances of many families, and led to issues with them being able to pay rent and buy food and other essentials. 

Also see: 'My newborn baby was denied immunisation, because I tested positive for Covid-19' 

Postpartum experience 

Of the mothers who postpartum experiences where documented, 83% said they felt that the pandemic impacted their postpartum experiences.

Furthering detailing these experiences, 82% reported feeling isolated while 26% struggled to access care for their baby or themselves due to the lockdown. Half of mothers of babies born during lockdown faced delays in registering the birth. 

Somewhat unsurprisingly, considering, 63% of women reported symptoms of probable depression, but sadly only 15% accessed mental health services.

Factors associated with probable depression included negative birth experience, difficulty accessing health services in lockdown and lockdown induced financial struggles. 

Breastfeeding help 

Beyond the hospital stay, many women struggled with breastfeeding, with 41% saying they struggled with breastfeeding due to painful nipples latching problems, concerns with milk supply.

While these are not uncommon issues faced by new mothers, before the pandemic women could reach out for help. 

Of the 16% of women who could see a lactation consultant in hospital, the numbers are down from 39% pre-lockdown to 13% in lockdown. 

Over half of the mothers surveyed felt that seeing a lactation consultant could have improved their feeding experience. 

Must seeSqueaky clean: How to sterilise baby bottles, and when to stop 

Mostly positive 

Nonetheless, 70% reported that they felt mostly positive about their new parenting experiences.

Dr Elise Farley, an epidemiologist on the team who conducted the survey, told Parent24 "Our teams biggest take away from the 2020 Lockdown Babies survey was that mothers found the isolation of lockdown difficult, but they still had positive birth and new parenting experiences indicating a strong sense of resilience."

"They were able to overcome the hardships of lockdown and still find joy in the special moments with their new children," she said. 

The team's advice for new mothers is to reach out to other moms who are in similar positions, and to know they are not alone and that there is help out there if needed. 

For support, reach out to:

Coronavirus SA Hotline: 0800 029 999

Suicide Helpline: 0800 567 567

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group: 0800 21 22 23

Lifeline: 0861 322 322

Perinatal Mental Health Project

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