New mothers struggling with isolation due to lockdown

New mothers struggling with isolation due to lockdown

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New mothers are struggling because of the lack of supports available during the lockdowns, according to a leading Cork GP.

Dr Mary Favier said that while some services have continued virtually, the women have become isolated.

Dr Favier said: "New mothers are struggling and incredibly apologetic to be bothering you. They are really apologetic and so much of it is because the usual supports are gone." 

Some health services are significantly curtailed, but, Dr Favier said, the women are now often isolated from their own mothers.

First time mothers

This is a particular problem for first-time mothers, she said, as they have not built up a support network of experienced mothers.

"Now, we have a situation where older parents and people with other illnesses can't do that and can't help out," Dr Favier said.

"New mothers, and particularly those who might be living away from home, don't have parents or siblings living close by; women here from other countries: They are in really, really challenging circumstances." 

Dr Favier said that in normal times, new mothers might have had too many visitors, but that has completely changed now.

The challenges are often compounded by new working patterns for her partner, if a woman is in a relationship. The partner might be working from home, but unable to offer much practical support, or might be working longer hours than before the pandemic.

Among the patients Dr Favier and her colleagues see are women in the early and later stages of maternity leave.

Dr Favier said: "The women in the first half of their maternity leave say they feel very isolated and don’t know how to cope; they're unsure about the practicalities of feeding and changing.

For women in the second half, you do notice that the sociability is really gone, the breastfeeding support groups are gone, and all of the learning that comes from that 

Dr Favier said that as the cases of Covid-19 continue to rise, this situation is unlikely to change soon.

"We have no choice but to continue. Women have always historically stepped up to this and they will do it again,” she said.

Support groups

Among the groups offering breastfeeding support in Ireland is the network of La Leche League meetings.

Volunteer breastfeeding consultant Jane Farran said the Cork City groups, like everywhere else, have been on Zoom since March.

"It is very hard; it is dreadful for some mothers," Ms Farran said. "New mothers, especially, are very isolated. We offer phone support, too; they would call looking for reassurance. There's problems, too, of course,” she said.

The Zoom classes take place once a fortnight and women can choose to turn their camera on for a more interactive experience; and for the simple joy of showing off a new baby's smile.

The groups fell under guidelines restricting indoor social gatherings to six. But some mothers might need to bring other children with them, so the HSE felt the limit could be too easily breached.

"One or two mothers have said they feel less pressure about being out and about, but now it's going on so long, they are very isolated," Ms Farran said.

Mothers can contact local La Leche League groups in Munster, and elsewhere, through Facebook.

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