Mother's Day: How New Moms Can Find Some 'Normalcy' in COVID Times
Covid is rising and it is important to have access to active healthcare system for mothers and babies everywhere.
To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the delivery of maternal and child health in India and other parts of the world is an understatement.
As disruptions in essential health services continue during the second wave, many new mothers and pregnant women are already suffering the consequences of poor access to antenatal, obstetric, and post-natal care.
This Mother’s Day, I feel it is more important than ever to speak out about the need to protect access to healthcare for mothers and their babies everywhere.
My daughter Mehr has not been able to go out much and, especially with the second wave hitting us hard, we have to be extra careful.
This means she doesn't get to experience normal life, which every baby should experience. But my daughter is not alone.
Countless young babies and new mothers across the country have been deprived of ‘normalcy.’
The Importance Of Building A Community
Since the pandemic unfolded in 2020, pregnant women and new mothers have been facing many challenges.
There are societal pressures, family pressures and then pressures that we put on ourselves. I believe it is important to talk about these issues, discuss them with other mothers, have a community that can be open and support each other on issues ranging from breastfeeding to formula, from equal parenting to being a working mother.
Breastfeeding Mehr truly made me realise the value of a wonderful support system. It made me start my initiative Freedom to Feed which focusses on championing the rights of mothers to breastfeed without judgement.
For those apprehensive about breastfeeding during the pandemic, I encourage new mothers and their families to consult their health care providers and review recent guidance on breastfeeding.
Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants, and it provides protection against many illnesses. There are rare exceptions when breastfeeding or feeding expressed milk is not recommended.
According to guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current evidence suggests that breast milk is not a likely source of COVID-19 infection.
Recently, we have been answering questions relating to COVID-19, how it is affecting children, whether or not to take a vaccine while breastfeeding, how pregnant women should protect themselves against COVID-19.
That’s the community we’ve built, we help each other on an everyday basis, we lift each other up and we women support each other.
Scaling Up Pre And Post-Natal Healthcare
Research from 2020 shows us that restrictions due to COVID-19 caused women to miss routine ante-natal health checks, which lead to illness and mortality.
Maternal health care has not been easily accessible to everyone and the challenges are greater in villages and small towns, especially for vulnerable women.
We must not only build awareness on the availability of services but also providing provide alternatives to traditional walk-in services, such as telemedicine or other remote access services, as this will be critical to ensuring that maternal and child health services are available to all.
In rural areas, equipping frontline workers is critical since they are the first and often the only point of contact with the public health system for rural women.
I strongly believe that sustained social change is the only way to ensure that women are empowered to take informed decisions about their health, to protect themselves, their families and their communities, especially during pregnancy and after childbirth.
We are living through a very difficult time. It is necessary that everyone understands how the virus spreads and ways we can contain it.
Double Standards Imposed On Women
Another pervasive issue is the double standards that are often imposed on mothers.
I am grateful I never had to face the pressures of having a son, but I am keen on highlighting the importance of ensuring women in India are no longer subject to the pressure to give birth to boys.
It’s It is extremely sad that even today women in our country face the pressure to give birth to sons. The last thing that an expectant mom should be anxious about is the gender of her baby.
What is important is the baby is healthy, the mother is healthy, and there is excitement to welcome the new family member.
There is an urgent need for women’s voices to be heard, an area of work where external support by NGOs and counsellors has been effective.
My husband and I immensely enjoy parenting our daughter. After Mehr came into our lives, everything has changed. I am constantly amazed that this tiny little being is capable of teaching me so much, of loving so much.
Before she was born, life was about my schedule. Now it's about her schedule, my playtime with her, her meal times and it's so beautiful.
Every day both Angad and I learn so much from Mehr, so the journey has been beautiful, to say the least.
This International Mothers’ Day, it is critical that appropriate actions are planned and taken to safeguard women’s access to quality health care, maternal health and child health services. If we have a voice, I believe we must speak up.
(Neha Dhupia is an actor, producer and full-time mother. She runs an initiative called 'Freedom to Feed', which brings together parents from across the country and world to speak about everything parenting. This article has been authored in collaboration with the national NGO Population Foundation of India.)
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