HSE online webinar to support new and expectant parents

IN regular times having a baby can be both a joyful and worrisome experience. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, expectant parents and parents of newly born babies may feel all the more distressed, anxious and isolated at this uncertain time.

To offer some support and guidance to these new and expectant parents, the Primary Care Psychology Service in HSE Community Healthcare West is running a live online webinar at 11.15 a.m. this Tuesday (September 14). The webinar, entitled ‘Covid-19: Looking after your emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and post-pregnancy’, will explore common anxieties and sources of stress associated with having a baby during Covid-19 as well as offering specific practical and psychological support strategies that can help parents best manage and care for themselves and their newborn.

The webinar will be delivered by HSE Senior Clinical Psychologists based in Community Healthcare West, Dr. Jeananne Garavan and Dr. Clare Thynne, who both have many years of experience working with parents and families.

Dr. Garavan, Senior Clinical Psychologist in Primary Care Mayo, acknowledges that Covid-19 has caused additional worry and anxiety for expectant parents as well as for parents who have had a baby during the pandemic.

“We are all living with changed circumstances due to Covid-19 but these can be particularly challenging for expectant parents and parents of newborns. For example, they may not have the usual type of supports that they might have had in normal times and they may be understandably worried about their ability to cope.

“What we do in the webinar is to name some of these challenges and associated fears that are very common for all expectant and parents of newly born babies irrespective of Covid but which may now be all the more so given this difficult time we find ourselves living in. In response to such, we will describe some key practical and emotional support strategies so as to help the mams and dads and relevant caregivers look after themselves, each other and their baby.”

Prior to the pandemic Dr. Garavan delivered a similar talk for new and expectant parents in-person at various locations around Co. Mayo but when social distancing restrictions came into effect it was decided to move the talks online.

“People haven’t stopped having babies because of the pandemic and it is vital that we continue to deliver our services and support in whatever way we can. We have run the webinar four times since the onset of the pandemic and we are delighted with the level of uptake with over 500 registered at the last one alone, and the feedback we received,” she said.

Dr. Clare Thynne, Senior Clinical Psychologist in Primary Care Galway, believes it’s really important that new and expectant parents practice self-care and look after their own psychological and emotional wellbeing, stating: “Pregnancy and post pregnancy can be a maelstrom of magic and madness for parents. It can be a time of incredible joy, connection and beauty but it can simultaneously be a time of frustration, fear and isolation.

“We want to get the message across to parents that it is completely normal for the experience to be both joyful and demanding and to be compassionate with themselves in those difficult moments. As well as key information on how best to bond with baby, we will also describe the more common types of pre and postnatal mental health difficulties and will signpost people to all the relevant support services available.

“We really want to engage with attendees so there will also be plenty of time for questions at the end.”

The free webinar takes place online at 11.15 a.m. on Tuesday, September 14. It is aimed at all mums and dads who are expecting a baby or who have recently had a baby. It is also open to grandparents and extended family members or friends that may be supporting someone who is expecting or has just had a baby.

Places need to be reserved in advance by emailing laura.walsh9@hse.ie no later than lunchtime on Monday, September 13.