By: Dr. Deepika Goyal, The Valley Foundation School of Nursing
Article from U.S. News Health – https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2021-02-12/new-moms-need-the-covid-vaccine
COVID-19 vaccinations are well under way, with more than 44 million doses of coronavirus vaccine administered to date. Though states make their own calls, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has published guidelines for who should be vaccinated, with health care workers and long-term care residents first in line.
Amid much conversation about who should be vaccinated next – and as officials work their way down eligibility lists that include older adults, teachers and food-service workers – women who have given birth during the pandemic are among the millions of Americans patiently waiting for their turn. Many new moms are anticipating getting the vaccine so their family members and friends can safely visit and provide much needed help and support.
Based on current eligibility guidelines, they’ll likely be waiting at least until the fall or later as states look to ACIP’s recommendation for Phase 1c eligibility, which includes people ages 16 to 74 with underlying medical conditions.
But they should be able to get the vaccine sooner, because their health – apart from the risk posed by COVID-19 itself – depends on it.
Social support is well documented as a preventative factor for the development of postpartum mood disorders. Although the birth of a new child is a time of joy for the family, 1 in 5 women will experience a PMD – such as anxiety, baby blues, post-traumatic stress or postpartum depression – after giving birth and anytime within the first year after childbirth.
In fact, postpartum depression is the most common complication in the first postpartum year. But isolation due to the pandemic has left many new moms managing without the crucial social support of family and friends, which places them at increased risk of developing a PMD. When left unidentified and untreated, PMDs can contribute to poor maternal-infant bonding, lower breastfeeding rates and the more serious consequences of suicide and infanticide.
I have been researching PMDs for the past 18 years and have personally experienced postpartum depression. Although more than 30 years ago and before COVID-19, I experienced loneliness as a young mother after the birth of my first child. I was living in Japan, far away from family and friends. I felt alone, abandoned and incredibly sad when none of my family members were able to come and visit me.
More recently, I have been talking to new moms about their birth and postpartum experiences during the pandemic, which has taken me back to my own experience. As one mom told me, “The first six weeks were tough as a new mom. You’re already super careful about who comes in contact with your baby so they don’t get COVID-19. Now the only option is complete isolation.”
Another mother recalled, “We will never get back the opportunity for those early memories with family. COVID really turned a shared family event into a totally isolated blip.”
And another mom concluded: “I’d say the toughest part of this COVID isolation has been not having ‘my village.'”
Today, distance itself is not the reason family and friends have not been visiting; sheltering in place or keeping distance to decrease the risk of COVID-19 are the culprits.
Until then, new moms should consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine if one is available, which is in line with recommendations by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Health care providers caring for new mothers and their infants also need to be vigilant for PMDs, screening for any depressive symptoms through the first postpartum year and providing needed help and resources.
Together, we need to care for potentially vulnerable new mothers as they care for the most vulnerable among us.