Virtual support group teaches moms self-care and stress management tools



Being pregnant for the first time or being a first-time mom means a woman will be making a lot of changes. You now have another person’s needs to care for and think about, besides managing your own personal needs.

It’s a big adjustment that can be even harder with the added stresses of a global pandemic.

An April 2020 study in the Journal of American Medical Association done during the COVID-19 pandemic, reports 37 percent of pregnant women reported clinically relevant symptoms of depression and 57 percent of pregnant women reported anxiety. Pre-pandemic percentages found between 10 to 25 percent of pregnant women experience anxiety or depression symptoms.

Many women find support through connecting with other moms or joining a support group. But doing that in person during the pandemic is challenging.

Jade Elliott spoke with Clare Valles, a nurse with Intermountain Healthcare who teaches a virtual Mom and Baby Group Course and support group that helps both moms to be and new moms learn tools to manage the stress that being a new parent brings, and also take time for themselves.

Who can benefit from this virtual class?

First-time moms, moms who are new to the community or who are far away from their families or network of friends will especially benefit from this class. It’s a great way to meet moms from all different backgrounds.

We’ve seen a rise nationally in postpartum depression. A better term is peripartum mood disorders, because moms can experience this not just after childbirth but during pregnancy and symptoms can manifest not only as depression, but also as anxiety.

The virtual class is taught by trained nurses and based on a national curriculum

I’ve been a nurse in labor and delivery, a clinic setting and homecare and public health for more than 20 years. The teachers are trained nurses.

Intermountain became aware of this curriculum that was developed at Northwestern University that’s evidence-based and has been proven to help improve behavioral health outcomes for new moms and their babies.

What are the benefits of doing the course virtually?

A lot of moms are working, so we’re able to tailor the class to meet during the lunch hour or in the evening. With the course being virtual, moms save time by not having to travel to the class.

And they can tune in from anywhere. During the pandemic, especially, moms need to take a break from their responsibilities and connect with other new moms who can offer support.

What does the class focus on?

  • Self-care
  • Stress management
  • Mother-baby bonding
  • Developing positive social connections

We teach moms to take care of themselves and not feel guilty to take time away from their baby if they have a trusted adult who can watch the baby. We teach them how to include Dad. We teach them to prioritize self-care. Some mom feels they have to do all the childcare and all the housework and then they go back to work and still try to do it all and that is hard.

The course teaches these skills

1. How to understand your mood and how feelings can spiral up or down

2. How to stop unhealthy thinking and turn it into healthy thinking. Look at each day and rate it. Recall positive experiences to help re-frame things.

3. How to look at your support system and manage it.

4. How to recognize that people can be supportive, not supportive or even toxic.

5. How to be empowered to set boundaries with people who are not supportive.

6. How to share examples of how you’ve met challenges and the steps you’re taking to manage them and learn what you could do better.

Participants learn to pay attention to thoughts, feelings and behaviors

The class uses cognitive behavioral therapy which is based on the relationships between a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. For example, if your mood was a six on a 10-point scale. What made it that way?

Do things to help your mood spiral up. Even simple pleasant activities like taking a shower or a walk or listening to music can help.

The importance of mother-baby bonding

The class focuses on attachment theory and the importance of mother and baby bonding.

We teach parents that they are their child’s first teacher and to comfort their baby face to face, and play with their baby. It builds self-esteem in your child. Good parenting takes time. It’s easier to ignore a fussy baby or hand them your phone to keep them occupied. But that is not what they need from you.

How a group dynamic offers support

By attending the class, many women realize they’re not the only one feeling isolated or having a hard time. Seeing people’s faces and hearing others talk. And seeing other role models can help. People emerge as different people after the class. Different people resonate to different things taught in the class. We also can refer women to other community resources if needed.

How to sign up for the virtual interactive class

You can sign up online for the Intermountain Mom & Baby Group Course. It’s a six-week class and it’s available to moms ages 18 and up in the Intermountain service area. The cost is $15. Scholarships are available. Class size is kept small to encourage connections.

How to register for online childbirth education classes

Intermountain Healthcare also has a go at your own pace, online prenatal class through YoMingo, that includes four different modules on postpartum emotions, baby blues, warning signs and a resources module that lists mental health resources in Utah.

To register, go to https://intermountainhealthcare.org/ and click on the classes and events tab and search for birth classes.

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.


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