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UAB Medicine Physician Offers Advice for New and Expectant Mothers

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Each Mother’s Day we honor and celebrate the maternal figures in our lives and the positive impact they make. It’s also a good time to recognize that many new and expectant mothers may feel overwhelmed by the challenges motherhood brings. Janeen Arbuckle, MD, PhD, of UAB Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, provides advice that may be helpful for women and their partners as they navigate this exciting phase of life.

Setting boundaries and family privacy

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a number of policies created for the health and safety of our community members. One of the most noticeable policies in medical facilities has been the small number of guests and visitors, if any, allowed during a stay.

In the past, family and friends could flock to the hospital or home to welcome a new baby. Current restrictions may give the impression that loved ones are missing precious time with your new baby, when in fact such privacy may be beneficial. Dr. Arbuckle encourages patients to see the silver lining of this special time. She says the intimate setting provides a focus on the basic needs of you and your baby, and protects the growth of your family.

It can be exhausting on many levels to feel responsible for and entertain guests, even if they are part of your family. Life with a newborn is a big change, so there’s no need to feel obligated to play host too. “I think that my biggest tip for all patients is that they just advocate for the space they need,” Dr. Arbuckle says. Your space may look different from that of a friend or family member, and it may also vary from previous pregnancies.

Flexibility is key

The final trimester can be a hectic time preparing the home, packing a hospital bag, and making regimented plans and lists. Learning to be flexible and relinquish control is difficult but necessary in the early stages of motherhood.

Dr. Arbuckle says that many high-functioning women may anticipate following a strict schedule of their own, when in reality their days will gravitate toward the baby’s schedule upon arrival. Adapting to new situations and being flexible, especially around the time of delivery, will help eliminate the likelihood of fixating on the small stuff that may be beyond control anyway.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

When reflecting on the birth of her firstborn, Dr. Arbuckle acknowledges that she could not have gone through the experience alone, and was thankful to have a support system. Remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

“A major contributor to maternal mental health is not just the hormonal changes in the postpartum state, but also sleep deprivation,” Dr. Arbuckle says. “So using those other family members to help alleviate some of the nighttime duties can be really helpful.” It turns out that the old adage “sleep when the baby sleeps” still rings true, and can be beneficial to the mother’s health.

As part of UAB Medicine’s prenatal and postnatal care, providers screen each patient for signs of depression, with follow-ups and referrals based on severity. While postpartum blues are common and transient, Dr. Arbuckle recommends that patients immediately seek help from their provider if something feels off. “No one should suffer with postpartum depression alone,” she says.  

Although Mother’s Day is just one day of the year, this advice can be applied during any time of the year to make the new mother in your life feel celebrated and loved.

For more information about the services and resources UAB Medicine has to offer families before, during, and after pregnancy, visit www.uabhealthclass.com