Pregnant during the pandemic? The health department raises awareness of the risks and the various support channels


Pregnant during the pandemic?

The health department raises awareness of the risks and the various support channels

Expecting mothers experience a wide range of emotions, from hope and joy to anxiety and depression. It’s natural and not unexpected. Before COVID, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the number of women with depression in childbirth was on the rise. In fact, cases nationwide were seven times higher in 2015 than in 2000 according to the CDC. Earlier this year, a small study from Stanford University reported that the risk of depression in women during pregnancy doubled during the COVID pandemic. Thursday, October 7 is National Depression Screening Day, and the Putnam County Department of Health wants to raise awareness of this growing health problem and alert those in need of the different types of supports available.

“During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety and stress levels are higher for almost everyone,” said Kathy Percacciolo, registered public health nurse, “and pregnant and postpartum women may be more affected than most. Support groups can offer help to some, especially those experiencing increased isolation with the pandemic. However, these groups are not the ultimate solution for serious mental health issues, such as depression that require treatment by a healthcare professional. “

Online support groups have actually thrived throughout the pandemic. From the start of the lockdown to the present day, these places have become the answer for many as the need continued and, in many cases, increased. A support group, based in person at the Desmond-Fish Public Library in Garrison since 2014, quickly embraced the Zoom platform and converted online, thanks to host Katherine Whiteside, a Childbirth International Certified Doula . From January to September 2021, there were 749 Putnam online visits, according to Ms. Whiteside, who hosts the group with co-facilitator and clinical psychologist Dr. Rachel Lemonik. Visits counted include those recorded by mothers, partners and babies, and represent dozens of customers, most of whom reside in Putnam, while some can reach from as far away as Texas or Nebraska.

“The support these women receive is of immeasurable value,” said Ms. Whiteside. “We run groups three times a week in Putnam and Westchester, all affiliated with local public libraries. Westchester Group counts are also high, with 738 in Ossining and 891 in Croton. Women are invited to participate in any sessions they wish, as often as they wish, and at no cost. Our online groups are an incredible service that, frankly, did not exist in such a comprehensive way before the pandemic, ”she said. In addition to online support, facilitators have a solid reference list and can refer online participants to other professionals upon request. Most referrals to outside assistance are intended for chiropractors specializing in pregnancy; postpartum exercise consultants; Certified IBCLCs, who are lactation consultants certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, the gold standard; or mental health therapists.

Fortunately, as vaccination rates increased this summer, limited in-person groups were able to resume and health department nurses supported these efforts. “Helping women set up successful breastfeeding can be a challenge and it’s probably not hard to understand that it is more easily done in person,” said public health nurse Diane Liscia, RN, MS , IBCLC, who worked with her health care colleague Denise Sheeran. , RN, to promote breastfeeding throughout Putnam, for many years before COVID.

“What we do best requires a warm and hands-on approach,” said Ms. Liscia, “and establishing breastfeeding early is essential. Let us not forget how important breastfeeding can play in a baby’s development and health, not only in the short term but also in the long term.

For pregnant women during the pandemic, isolation has compounded the usual physical and emotional challenges. As if these increased risks weren’t enough, last May the CDC added references related to pregnancy to its list of underlying medical conditions that put women at a higher risk of serious illness from the COVID-19 virus. . Although the overall risk of serious illness is still low, pregnant and recently pregnant women (in the last 42 days) are at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women. If a pregnant person develops COVID, they are at increased risk of preterm labor, with delivery before 37 weeks. They may also be at increased risk for other adverse pregnancy outcomes.

“The message here is that pregnant women take all public health precautions to protect themselves from COVID very seriously,” Ms. Sheeran said. “This includes the vaccination, which is safe for pregnant women and recommended by the CDC. It also means continued masking and social distancing. For the New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in-person breastfeeding support group, all participants are screened by the hospital, which serves many mothers in the western part of Putnam County.

For more information or to join online support groups send an email
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. For more information and to register for the in-person lactation support group, contact Sonia Mathisson, MS, RD, IBCLC, Lactation Consultant at NYP Hudson Valley Hospital at 914-734-3896.

The mission of the Putnam County Health Department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the Putnam County community of nearly 100 000 inhabitants. Basic services include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion, and health education. For more information, please visit the Putnam County website at, or visit the Department of Health‘s social media sites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PutnamHealthNY.


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