A new report has shone a light on the disproportionate impact the coronavirus lockdown has had on women who are pregnant, giving birth or at home with a baby or toddler.
The Babies In Lockdown report, produced by Best Beginnings, Home-Start UK, and the Parent-Infant Foundation UK, surveyed thousands of mums across the United Kingdom.
It gained insight on how babies, toddlers and parents of all backgrounds were really being affected by such a seismic change to their everyday routines.
With an estimated 200,000 babies born in the height of lockdown and many millions of parents impacted by the restrictions, the report found that the pandemic could leave a “severe and long-lasting” effect on children.
Babies in lockdown
Seven in 10 new parents have highlighted that the development of their babies has suffered because of the global pandemic.
Aside from babies struggling to develop, parents have also struggled to cope with their babies’ change in attitude towards them, with a quarter of new parents admitting to feeling “concerned” about their relationship with their baby.
Below are some testimonies from mothers who participated in the survey.
“My two-year-old has become violent and upset quite a lot of the time due to this. He’s finding it hard just seeing and being in contact with two people. I fear for the effects this lockdown will have on him later in life.” Mum, 24, Scotland.
“I have been crying for hours on end, having anxiety and panic attacks which are all out of the ordinary for me. This has affected my nine-month-old son who has seen me experience this and has been more tearful and clingy with me.
“My son is hating me working from home because he doesn’t understand why mama is ignoring him when he can hear me and is now super clingy with me. He had never had screen time or seen me use a mobile before this. Now most of his social interactions are online and he doesn’t understand why I am locked away 35 hours a week in the bedroom.” Mum, 38, Scotland.
The impact on parents
Looking after children who are restricted from leaving the house is no easy feat and it has had a “significant” impact on as many as six in 10 parents.
Despite needing support during this time, only three in 10 parents felt they could find help for their mental health if they needed it.
“My anxiety is through the roof and I’m trying to get professional help with it to manage, but I’ve been told there is a long waiting list.” Mum, 39, South East England.
“I feel lost in the world. I am mentally, psychologically and emotionally in a standstill.” Mum, 32, North West England.
“Struggling with accessing mental health support during my pregnancy – not sure who I am able to call. I was told I would be referred to perinatal mental health services, but was told nothing about when they would contact me and I have no idea how to get hold of them.
“I am struggling so bad right now and the worst part is I have extreme anxiety when it comes to phone calls which seems to be the only option at the moment.” Pregnant mum, 29.
COVID-19 and pregnancy
For pregnant women, the main cause for concern has been in relation to the care they received during lockdown, with four in 10 concerned about who to turn to for reliable advice.
Women in the lowest income bracket of the report suffered the most and over a third of pregnant women said the care they received at birth was “not as planned”.
“I feel I’ve had little support from my epilepsy team during pregnancy. Pregnancy-related appointments for my epilepsy have been cancelled with no rescheduled date – why couldn’t this be done via phone?” Mum, 34, South West England.
“There is very little information on how COVID-19 can affect myself or my baby if I get it. I also waited a long time for contact with the midwife despite having serious complications in past pregnancy.” Pregnant woman, 26, North West England.
Support after giving birth
Just one in 10 parents with children under two have seen a health visitor face-to-face since the coronavirus lockdown.
With women reporting a lack of support with everything from breastfeeding to post-natal depression, it’s clear that for many, the impact of COVID-19 has tarnished their ‘new mum’ experience.
“Not having face-to-face visits with health visitors or midwives in the weeks following the birth, makes me anxious that she hadn’t been “checked” for any potential health concerns which may have arisen after birth. e.g. skin conditions, feeding, weight gain or loss.” Mum, 31, North West England.
“Baby not feeding so sent home with care plan. This failed as midwife refused to come to the home to provide breast pump (couldn’t buy one as shops shut) resulting in no way to feed baby. Midwife over phone essentially just said you’ll have to bottle feed!” Mum, 34, West Midlands.
“I’m pretty sure I have PND but I don’t feel the NHS has the time to help me at the moment.” Mum, 36, North West England.