Coronavirus: 'Social isolation' of new parents during lockdown

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Media caption"I could be crying my eyes out on the floor and they wouldn't know"

New parents have been left "socially isolated" during lockdown and unaware of how to get help, the National Childbirth Trust has claimed.

Bethan Sayed, who gave birth in April, said the support she has received was "sporadic".

The member of the Senedd warned of a long-term impact on new mothers' mental health.

The Welsh Government said perinatal community services had continued through the pandemic.

But there have been calls for better support in the event of a second lockdown.

Image copyright Bethan Sayed
Image caption New mum Bethan Sayed described support she received as "sporadic"

NCT practice manager Val Wilcox, said some parents had been reluctant to contact health visitors or midwives because "they don't want to bother them or they're not sure whether they're allowed to".

She said: "We've heard about certain services reaching out and ringing the socially isolated at the other end of the spectrum - so the elderly receiving proactive phone calls - perhaps that's something that could be put in place for new parents as well.

"So rather than having to pick up the phone themselves, someone's actually checking in with them if we go into a second lockdown."

Ms Wilcox said research showed the sooner post-natal depression sufferers sought help, the sooner they got better.

"If it's not easy or apparent where that help comes from, then an individual is more likely to spiral downward," she said.

Plaid Cymru Senedd member, Ms Sayed, gave birth to son Idris after lockdown started on 23 March.

The South Wales West MS said she had not had a single health visit and described support as "sporadic".

She said she was "overwhelmed" by the number of people calling with similar concerns, saying they felt "isolated".

Ms Sayed is calling on the Welsh Government to ensure mothers are offered a six week check-up and are told of services available.

"The lack of consistency across both counts is really disappointing," she said.

'Forgotten about'

Image copyright Katie Jones
Image caption Katie Jones felt "forgotten about", having not had a single health visit

Katie Jones, from Porthcawl, gave birth to her second child, George, in March, just before lockdown began.

She said she felt "forgotten about" having not had a single health visit and just two phone calls since her son was born.

"I'm genuinely OK but they don't know that," she said.

"I could be a mess on the floor crying my eyes out with my baby just not knowing what to do, and no one would have a clue right now, because there's been no touch points since he was eight weeks old."

She said she had been given a number if she needed help but said it would be better if the health visitors called.

"I personally wouldn't phone or text a health visitor but if they phoned me I might open up a lot more," she said.

'I needed more support'

Image copyright Michelle Townsend
Image caption Michelle Townsend said support available as a first-time mum was "patchy"

Michelle Townsend's daughter Audrey was born prematurely at 26 weeks in October.

She was allowed home from hospital 10 days before lockdown began.

The neonatal team at University Hospital of Wales had continued to visit Audrey at her Cardiff home.

But she said support available to her as a first-time mum was "patchy".

"I've had a conversation with the health visitor a couple of times over the phone and one face-to-face and there was a little bit of a discussion about my mental health," she said.

"But to be honest we'd been home about two days, and then lockdown happened, and actually I think that's had more of an impact on my mental health and wellbeing.

"And it's taken a few weeks for me to realise that I needed more support, and that's where I've found that it's been a little bit lacking."

She said lifting travel restrictions and letting people form extended households made "an enormous difference."

But if there was a second wave of coronavirus and restrictions were tightened "special considerations" should be given to new parents, she added.

The Welsh Government said perinatal community services and mental health support continued throughout the pandemic.

"Support is available to parents through their named midwife and health visitor, as well as through virtual, phone and face-to-face appointments - where safe to do so," a spokesman said.

"We have recently provided funding to boost the free and confidential support available through the Family Lives helpline, to offer bilingual advice on any aspect of parenting and family life.

"We would urge anyone experiencing difficulties to get in touch with their designated health visitor, midwife or support services."

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