How can we support parents of preemie babies better? How can these parents find psychological support when they need it most?

A complication-free, full-term pregnancy is something every mother dreams of. When things go wrong and the baby is premature, all these unexpected changes can be overwhelming.

We’re here to help in this episode of ‘The Health Wrap’ brought to you by Mediclinic Baby. Clinical psychologist, Chrismari Herholdt, joins us to share expert tips and advice for expectant parents, new parents of preemie babies, and the friends and family that surround them. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss any of our baby-related episodes.

[00:00:00] Voice Note: For my first daughter, I discovered I had a ruptured membrane and she was delivered six weeks early. It was September 2020, so in the middle of COVID, and I went into the delivery room and then had the c-section and then the doctor just wanted to take her away without me seeing her and then at least my partner said, no, you have to let us see her.

[00:00:27] Voice Note: And then the doctor allowed me that few seconds that I was able to hold her then because of COVID he was only allowed to walk with her for a little bit and then he came back to see me and I didn't see her again till the next day. She was in the ICU. I was only allowed to be there like my partner wasn't allowed to be in the room.

[00:00:51] Voice Note: And then over the two and a half weeks I had to go in every time she needed to be fed and, um. I had to wait outside in the [00:01:00] waiting room. I didn't have any chance to hold her or have that bond time, you know. I was only able to hold her a week after she was born. So, I always felt robbed of that initial contact and that initial bonding time.

[00:01:15] Voice Note: Which I think contributed quite heavily to my postnatal depression and a disconnect from her that I had in the beginning couple of months. Uh, obviously things have drastically changed now, but it was a real struggle. It was emotionally draining, and I think it took a long time for me to form that bond with her.

[00:01:39] Vanessa Pickford: Dealing with the unexpected can be one of life's hardest challenges. This is especially true when it comes to childbirth, when things go differently from what you might have planned and when you have no control over the situation. In the case of premature birth, the focus is immediately on the baby's well-being, as it should be.

[00:01:57] Vanessa Pickford: But once things settle down, it can be [00:02:00] easy to forget the mother, who might need support in coping with this unexpected situation. A difficult or traumatic birth can have a lasting impact, potentially affecting relationships, parenting and overall well-being. But there are steps and strategies that can help immensely.

[00:02:19] Vanessa Pickford: Welcome to The Health Wrap, powered by Mediclinic Baby. I'm your host, Vanessa Pickford. In this special mini-series, we're focusing on premature births. Every year, on the 17th of November, World Prematurity Day is observed to raise awareness of preemie births and the interests of preterm babies and their families around the globe.

[00:02:39] Vanessa Pickford: This podcast series, packed with trusted medical advice and insight, plus real-life stories, is for anyone who is pregnant or who has just had a preemie baby, people in their support network, as well as those who would like more information in the event of an earlier than expected arrival. I'm a registered nurse and founder of the SafeMed Training Centre.[00:03:00]

[00:03:00] Vanessa Pickford: I'm also the mother of four, so I know many of the ups and downs of childbirth. Please note that the views shared by any of our guests in this podcast may not necessarily reflect the views of Mediclinic, so please consult a medical professional if you have any concerns. In this episode, we spend some time with clinical psychologist, Chrismari Herholdt.

[00:03:21] Vanessa Pickford: Chrismari is a specialist at Mediclinic Panorama, in Cape Town, where she has worked since 2006, expertly caring for patients with counselling and group therapy, conducting clinical research, and more. Welcome, Chrismari! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today. Your decades of experience in helping people deal with life’s curveballs will be so helpful to the mums of preterm babies, as well as their partners, family members and friends who might be listening today. So welcome!

[00:03:51] Chrismari Herholdt: Hi, thank you very much, um, Vanessa, for having me.

[00:03:55] Vanessa Pickford: First of all, can you tell me a little bit more about the work that you do? [00:04:00]

[00:04:00] Chrismari Herholdt: Yes, I work as a clinical psychologist at Mediclinic Panorama. I am taking care of mostly the inpatients, patients that are in the hospital, and medical psychology. I work in most of the wards, but with a very special interest in our maternity postnatal and our premature, our neo natal ICU.

[00:04:20] Chrismari Herholdt: I've been working with Mediclinic now for the past almost 18 years, so the hospital, I think I'm almost part of the furniture at Mediclinic in this department and then part-time private practice in the Stellenberg Durbanville environment.

[00:04:38] Vanessa Pickford: Well, with all of that work experience, I'm sure you're the very best person to ask what parents of preemie babies can expect when it comes to their emotions after birth.

[00:04:50] Chrismari Herholdt: Yes, preemie parents, uh, after the birth, it's a lot of complex emotions. Mostly the mom and father will feel [00:05:00] exceptionally helpless. There will be a lot of fear and confusion. They didn't plan for this baby to be born premature. And, um, I find a lot of the moms afterwards talk about feeling guilty. They will ask themselves, is there something they maybe did during the pregnancy or did they eat something? Did they do anything wrong?

[00:05:21] Chrismari Herholdt: Why did the baby come earlier? Anxiety. They don't know the environment. They don't know what the neonatal ICU looks like. It's, it's quite intimidating for the parents. Sad. It's a loss of not being able to have a normal full-term pregnancy and this beautiful delivery that you always read and see on social media and everyone can plan the deliveries.

[00:05:46] Chrismari Herholdt: Um, so there's a lot of sadness and then trauma, uh, trauma experienced by the birth because, for a lot of these parents, the birth process was not planned. They didn't have lots of notice beforehand. So, um, [00:06:00] father and mom went through a lot of emotions, a rollercoaster ride before and during the delivery of the baby.

[00:06:07] Vanessa Pickford: That sounds like it could be quite overwhelming actually. So, to what extent do these sorts of uncomfortable feelings start to disappear as the baby grows stronger and possibly becomes more ready to go home?

[00:06:21] Chrismari Herholdt: I find that the parents, they, the anxiety and the helplessness subside quite a lot during the stay in the neonatal ICU.

[00:06:30] Chrismari Herholdt: Most of our babies, depending on how premature they were born, will stay at least two to four weeks if they're very premature. The age where they focus on discharging is the full-term age for the baby, also depending on what is wrong with the little one. But the parents start feeling more comfortable, they get to know the staff in the neonatal ICU, they get to know the neonatologists, and they get a lot of support and advice.

[00:06:58] Chrismari Herholdt: So they start feeling a lot [00:07:00] more in control and that unknown and that fear of the unknown is a lot less. So I often refer to parents because I think it's not, it's definitely not just a mom that goes through this emotional turmoil, rollercoaster. It's definitely the fathers as well. And a lot of these uncomfortable feelings and emotions do disappear.

[00:07:24] Chrismari Herholdt: To the extent where the baby gets discharged and ready to go home, the neonatal staff will make sure that the parents are okay and that they feel comfortable and equipped to, take the baby home. 

[00:07:37] Vanessa Pickford: Now I imagine that they have a lot of intense experiences and time spent with those neonatal staff but their focus truly is largely on managing and looking after the baby.

[00:07:48] Vanessa Pickford: So how would you suggest that the parents of the preemie babies process the birth experience and all the feelings that come with that and find a healthy outlet for them, perhaps [00:08:00] outside of that neonatal ICU environment?

[00:08:03] Chrismari Herholdt: That's a very, very important question because there's a lot of things that they need to be able to work through and to get a healthy outlet for that.

[00:08:12] Chrismari Herholdt: And for that, it's important to ask the staff if there's someone in, at the facility that they're at. Does the facility maybe have a social worker or a psychologist that they can talk to, a support group even, we often offer, uh, support groups for the parents. We have a social worker who does rounds daily.

[00:08:34] Chrismari Herholdt: In our neonatal ICU that makes contact with the parents so that they have a friendly face. Sometimes it's me that's in the, in the ICU that they have a friendly face and they get to know someone that they feel that they can trust and that they can just phone. It's also important for them to seek help.

[00:08:52] Chrismari Herholdt: It can be very, very overwhelming for parents when they don't know Um, what to expect even when they [00:09:00] go home.

[00:09:01] Vanessa Pickford: Now, on a previous podcast, I interviewed a specialist about postnatal depression and just how many mums struggle with this. Would you say that mums of preterm babies are at a greater risk for postnatal depression?

[00:09:15] Chrismari Herholdt: That's an interesting question. I think postnatal depression obviously has a lot of other role-playing factors like previous history of depression and a lot of other things. But if we look at the trauma of the birthing process, that is also a very big indicator of the possibility of developing postnatal depression.

[00:09:33] Chrismari Herholdt: So I would say we do take more care of our preemie baby parents so that we can actually support them more because they are at a higher risk. We don't know whether the baby might have any problems. How easy it is for the baby to breastfeed. Um, the baby sometimes gets discharged with something to monitor the oxygen levels and to make sure the baby keeps breathing during the night.[00:10:00]

[00:10:00] Chrismari Herholdt: So there's a lot of unsureity and anxiety. So those parents are definitely more prone to develop postnatal depression. If we only just look at the sleeping pattern, a healthy full-term baby, sometimes the doctors would say, um, leave the baby to sleep and only feed on demand during the night.

[00:10:21] Chrismari Herholdt: Whereas with a prem baby, the doctors will say this little one needs to be woken up every so and so hours and needs to be fed and that is quite exhausting for the mom. In my practice, the first thing I ask every single mom that I see is, I ask questions about the quality of her sleep and how often does she sleep properly and how often does she feeds.

[00:10:45] Chrismari Herholdt: Because that is for me, a big role player, if you're going to cope well or not.

[00:10:50] Vanessa Pickford: Chrismari, just to increase awareness amongst our listeners, what would you say are some of the signs that a new mum might need some [00:11:00] extra support for their mental health?

[00:11:02] Chrismari Herholdt: Baby blues after birth, um, is quite prevalent. Um, a lot of, almost 80 per cent, of moms would have baby blues.

[00:11:11] Chrismari Herholdt: And that's for the first days after the baby's been born. There will be some sadness, mood swings, uh, loss of appetite, sleeping problems, mom might be more irritable than normal, restless, anxiety symptoms, and um, she might feel very isolated. That is quite normal, but if the symptoms last for longer than two weeks or longer, I would start, um, asking for some extra support.

[00:11:39] Chrismari Herholdt: If you're very tearful, and lack energy, your appetite is affected. Sleeping is a difficult one because you can't really monitor the quality of the sleep that the mom needs to wake up regularly for the feedings. But if the mom struggles to focus or struggles to remember stuff, she feels inappropriately guilty, loss of interest in other activities, some physical symptoms like headaches, heart palpitations, um, feeling sweaty, anxious, and then also getting thoughts of maybe wanting to hurt herself or the baby, or showing a lack of interest in the baby.

[00:12:19] Chrismari Herholdt: Those are all, um, warning signs that you might just need to contact someone. Whether it's the paediatrician that's working with the little one or whether it's at your gynae or a helpline or a psychologist that you know. Yeah.

[00:12:33] Vanessa Pickford: You know, acknowledging that there is a problem and asking for help can be very difficult for some people.

[00:12:39] Vanessa Pickford: Many parents might feel that they should be able to cope or that as long as the baby is well then nothing else matters. What advice would you give to them about reaching out?

[00:12:52] Chrismari Herholdt: A lot of the women feel very guilty and ashamed about not being okay after childbirth because If you look at social [00:13:00] media these days and you look at other moms with happy, healthy, full-term babies, it looks like it should be all about fun and what a blessing it's supposed to be to have a baby.

[00:13:11] Chrismari Herholdt: And it's the best thing that's happened to the couple and they've been waiting so long for their little one. But now you're not happy at all. Mom might feel exceptionally traumatised. She might feel like this is the worst thing that's ever happened to her. She's feeling out of control and that does not mean that you're a bad mother.

[00:13:31] Chrismari Herholdt: I think that's the most important part for me to get the message across this, that it's okay not to be okay after having a premature baby and it's okay to ask for help and to ask the paediatrician or the gynae for some. There's loads of medication that's available that's not going to harm the little one, even, um, medication that might help you with milk production, that's got a side effect of making your mood feel better and to [00:14:00] lower the anxiety levels.

[00:14:01] Chrismari Herholdt: So there are lots of things that, that I can actually, or that I would like to say to the moms that it's really okay to ask for help.

[00:14:10] Vanessa Pickford: We’ll be back with Chrismari shortly, but for now I wanted to remind you about the Mediclinic 24/7 Helpline. You can call the number +27 86 023 3333. The 24/7 Helpline is no longer only for medical enquiries, but can even go as far as assisting you with making doctors’ appointments. We’ve covered the more hidden, internal side of how parents experience premature birth, now I hope Chrismari can share her expertise once again in more practical matters.   

[00:14:51] Vanessa Pickford: Now, you've mentioned both the pead and the gynae as being resources and also the potential for being medicated. Are there other ways that are possibly non-medicinal to support these mums and possibly other structures or professionals that could step in and give assistance to see them through this time?

[00:14:56] Chrismari Herholdt: Yes. There are a lot of moms these days because you don't get [00:15:00] out of the house. There's a lot of platforms on social media. There's a South African prem support group on Facebook. There's your podcasts, um, to listen to, and then also family and friends to make use of them.

[00:15:17] Chrismari Herholdt: Family and friends would feel very helpless also because they don't know how they can help, um, to make things easier for you. I know in the beginning, you would like to find a routine and a structure for yourself with a little one and maybe your little one is a bit, very tiny and, and low birth weight.

[00:15:35] Chrismari Herholdt: So the doctor has said, please don't let a lot of other people come to your house and touch the little one or handle the little one but you're more than welcome to actually ask, for help in a different way. Cooked meals. I will always say to the moms when I do a happy mom, happy baby talks here at our hospital, I will say to the moms, say to the people if they ask you, what do you need?[00:16:00]

[00:16:00] Chrismari Herholdt: Don't say, Oh, I'm fine. We've got enough baby clothes and we've got enough of this. Say that you need cooked food and they can deliver something. Um, they can even ask someone like Checkers-sixty to deliver to your address. If you don't want to be. be seen in your pyjamas or, or, um, not having makeup on because that's not going to happen.

[00:16:21] Chrismari Herholdt: So ask for food, ask for help, ask for family to, to babysit the little one whilst you get a proper nap or just take care of the little one because moms of preemies will often look at the baby and make sure the baby is actually breathing and I'm not getting sleep themselves, friends, talk to them, ask them for some extra support and then very importantly to get dressed and sometimes just be able to leave the house because you can't stay in your pyjamas.

[00:16:51] Chrismari Herholdt: I know it's highly possible that you can from the morning when your husband leaves for work and he finds you at five o'clock half past five in the evening still in your [00:17:00] pyjamas and you can say to him that you haven't done anything in the house, you've just been busy with a baby, that's absolutely normal but those days when you can't predict it don't plan you can't plan um but there will be days that you can actually get a shower and get into clothes.

[00:17:17] Chrismari Herholdt: And try and get out and meet a friend for coffee or tea or anything, just so that you can get out and please try and limit major life changes. Don't move, try not to move when you have a newborn baby, try not to change jobs or husbands or for that matter, anything. Um, just focus on yourself and your little one.

[00:17:44] Vanessa Pickford: Very practical advice. Now, I was just thinking that we’re focusing largely on the mother and how she emotionally and psychologically adapts to having that premature baby. And in fact, a lot of what you said, could be experienced by any parent of [00:18:00] a newborn. But in this instance, with a premature babe, what about the father or the other parent?

[00:18:06] Vanessa Pickford: Are they possibly also at risk of having some form of psychological or emotional adaptive problem?

[00:18:13] Chrismari Herholdt: Yes, I always say to the fathers when I do see couples and I support couples, I say to them the only thing that's different for them is the fact that they don't have that hormonal changes in the body during the childbirth and that they're not breastfeeding.

[00:18:30] Chrismari Herholdt: But they're still going through exactly the same life challenges. They're also going through the fact that there's a lot of sleep deprivation. They also go through the fact that there's lots of financial stress in the climate, financial climate of our country at the moment. People don't always, not all the companies give extended maternity leave.

[00:18:51] Chrismari Herholdt: They don't get paid during maternity leave. To try and get UIF out of the government sometimes is very strenuous and stressful. So the [00:19:00] fathers really also do take a lot of strain. And to see their wife not being okay, um, or to worry about the health of the little one, and to worry about the medical bills, because every time you go to a paediatrician, You feel faint when you get the account.

[00:19:17] Chrismari Herholdt: Um, so these, the fathers can actually also be at a high risk of burnout and depression, um, during this time. So we do, I take care of them as well.

[00:19:27] Vanessa Pickford: Oh, that's good to know. So we'll thank you for your insight, Chris Marie. Let's turn to some true life stories from our Mediclinic community.

[00:19:37] Voice Note: Hello, my name is Linda and my son was born seven weeks premature.

[00:19:43] Voice Note: He had intrauterine growth restriction, which meant that he was measuring small for his gestational age, both in weight and in centimetres. Um, and when he was born, he only weighed 1.5 kilograms. So he lived in the [00:20:00] NICU for about a month before he was released at about 2.2 kilograms. Um, it was a very stressful time, but I remember being very supported by staff at the NICU and, um, all of the people there, you could tell it was an absolute calling what they were doing.

[00:20:17] Voice Note: And it put me at ease. But I also was camped there every three hours for feeds and just enjoyed that experience from that perspective and also having all of the support that I had. Um, it was, it was, it was wonderful.

[00:20:35] Vanessa Pickford: Thus far in this podcast, we've focused on the more hidden or internal aspects of how parents experience premature birth.

[00:20:43] Vanessa Pickford: Now I hope Chrismari can share her expertise once again in a more practical manner. Firstly, considering the world we live in, it would be remiss of me not to mention parenting a preemie in the context of social media. And in fact, you touched on that. So given your [00:21:00] experience, Chrismari, what would you say the pros and cons are for a new preemie mom using social media?

[00:21:08] Vanessa Pickford: Perhaps, um, just for clarity, I'm asking about the value of finding a community of people who have gone through similar experiences versus the opportunities that then arise to compare yourself to others and how they've managed.

[00:21:22] Chrismari Herholdt: I most definitely will say, being a psychologist in 2023, social media, uh, for me, especially for moms with new babies, has got a lot more pros than cons.

[00:21:35] Chrismari Herholdt: The moms can sit in the comfort of their house, they can find a support group, a Facebook group, or whether it's a, um, on Instagram or I don't even know all the other different platforms. I must admit, I'm in my forties going very strongly to 50. So they might be for the new moms, um, a [00:22:00] lot more platforms that I'm not even aware of, but help is so much more available.

[00:22:06] Chrismari Herholdt: Even in my sessions, I'm doing a lot of online work. You can sit in the comfort of your house and you can get, get help. I've, seen moms reach out in the middle of the night. I happen to be part of a Durbanville mom group on social media and I could, I can see what time of the night moms would say, um, help me.

[00:22:26] Chrismari Herholdt: My baby is this, this and this. Um, I can't drive, to somewhere. Can, you just give me, um, some advice? What can I do now? And then moms with similar situations would share advice and kind of reduce their anxiety. That's the pro, but the con of that is, is that you always need to remember, social media and joining a group of premature moms, they're all just moms and they're sharing.

[00:22:51] Chrismari Herholdt: from their opinion and their perspective. It's not medical advice. It's not trained people. And if you always, when you [00:23:00] are not sure whether it's a medical condition, you always also need to consult a medical professional. But I find that there's a lot of comfort found and support found between mothers on social media.

[00:23:14] Chrismari Herholdt: And they can even share things and say, I find that this breast pump is not working well for me. Can you maybe share experiences, which one worked? And then there will likely be 24 other moms commenting about the one specific pump. Then you will know, don't go and buy 10 others, go and buy that specific pump, or they will recommend a specific breastfeeding consultant, or they will recommend even difficulties with breastfeeding.

[00:23:40] Chrismari Herholdt: I think I need to, to stop on that for a second because it's not every mom that's able to breastfeed and that finds it comfortable, and that's also okay. It's not the end of the world if you cannot breastfeed. It's important that you just say to yourself, whatever it takes to keep your baby healthy and [00:24:00] safe, and for your sanity, you need to do what you need to do.

[00:24:04] Vanessa Pickford: It's good to hear that there are positive aspects to being on social media. I think my concern is that posting on social media might leave those vulnerable parents open to scrutiny. Yes. So any suggestions on how to deal with perhaps comments or questions from loved ones and sometimes even complete strangers that may or may not be supportive?

[00:24:27] Chrismari Herholdt: I think you need to realize that the moment that you use social media, you do post something open for others to read or see. Is that you need to, you need to monitor what it is that you're comfortable with sharing and you need to remember that people will always comment from their perspective and what they feel is right.

[00:24:49] Chrismari Herholdt: They don't normally understand what you're going through. They might not even be knowledgeable about where and what is happening in your situation. You need to have [00:25:00] boundaries with regard to what you are going to share on social media and expect that people can be cruel when they comment on certain things.

[00:25:09] Chrismari Herholdt: And there can be stuff that might be hurtful and you need to protect yourself. I normally say to couples, um, they need to discuss what they are comfortable with disclosing about the traumatic experience of the birth or whatever might be wrong with a little one or the struggles they have beforehand.

[00:25:26] Vanessa Pickford: You know, you've mentioned that you see couples and further to that, how is it that apart from perhaps as you meet people in ICU, how do couples come to be in your care?

[00:25:38] Chrismari Herholdt: It mostly will be due to referrals from either the gynaecologist or the paediatrician, or the mom or the father will say that they are worried about the other one of the two.

[00:25:53] Chrismari Herholdt: Um, mostly they will say that they need to just come and talk to me about what happened or [00:26:00] they’re exceptionally anxious or mom's not coping well and dad's worried or vice versa. And, um, we just help with some parenting advice and to kind of normalise what you guys are going through to say, but this that you're experiencing is quite normal.

[00:26:19] Chrismari Herholdt: It's, you need to create a whole new normal for yourself the moment the baby is born and when it's a premature baby, there's a lot more dynamics to bring to the party. Um, and it's a lot to adjust to because one plus one is three. That's a huge equation. Yeah, indeed.

[00:26:38] Vanessa Pickford: Well, thus far, we've largely focused on premature birth, but we undoubtedly have pregnant mums listening who have not yet delivered.

[00:26:47] Vanessa Pickford: So is there anything that these mothers can do to prepare emotionally for their delivery and for anything unexpected that might happen?

[00:26:55] Chrismari Herholdt: Yes, I would say to moms because [00:27:00] if I see how I plan for my own pregnancies and deliveries, I read a lot of nice books that everyone recommended and I had this picture-perfect idea of birth in my mind and what it should look like and how it should happen and you pack your bag and you have everything ready and then once you get to the hospital or you didn't even plan when you go to the hospital you realise that that's not the reality.

[00:27:29] Chrismari Herholdt: So my biggest tip for moms that are pregnant at the moment is to embrace the pregnancy every day, every day of it. And the extra time that you get to spend with a little one in your womb, but not to be too set in your ways with regards to, how you are going to deliver this baby. You're not going to do a Caesars section.

[00:27:54] Chrismari Herholdt: You are choosing your gynae based on pro-natural delivery [00:28:00] or not going to that gynae because he just does Caesars. At the end of the day, the baby chooses the way the delivery will go. The gynae sometimes have very little. Yes, yes, there's a certain extent of Planning, um, for full-term babies where there are certain gynae that are more pro-natural delivery than others.

[00:28:20] Chrismari Herholdt: But the baby is the one that determines whether the baby needs to come out earlier, is in distress, or needs to be, um, a natural delivery, or whether the baby can, um, be an emergency cesarean section. So don't plan too much. If I can tell you don't plan too much, rather plan about what the room should look like.

[00:28:43] Chrismari Herholdt: Um, that's, that's about as far as you go. And these books that you read, I had a very difficult little one, my first child. And I felt at some stages that I wanted to tear pages out of the book and or phone the people and say, but I mean, really, [00:29:00] did you, did you do any research when you said this is how much babies should sleep?

[00:29:04] Chrismari Herholdt: And this is when they should feed. Uh, it's not set in stone. Uh, the baby comes into your life and they kind of set the pace of what life is going to be after that. So don't plan too much and ride the whirlwind.

[00:29:21] Vanessa Pickford: I love what you're saying. You've packed in advice and valuable insights, but just so that we can get the most out of our time with you, Chrismari, is there anything else important that you'd like to mention that we have not yet addressed?

[00:29:37] Chrismari Herholdt: Yes, I would like to just say something about moms, um, the mom's mood prior to delivery. I think an area that's not often looked at is the fact that moms can already develop depression or signs of depression during pregnancy. So it's important for me that you take care of yourselves. Right [00:30:00] from the start, when you find out that you're pregnant, don't just focus on the baby and the gynae appointments and the supplements that you take and planning for the financial wellness after the baby's birth.

[00:30:13] Chrismari Herholdt: But please do also take extra care of yourself and allow yourself to set the pace and give yourself some breaks because it's a lot on you emotionally as well. And do watch out for, for symptoms of depression during the pregnancy. If you've been prone to depression prior to falling pregnant, um, you will know that you need to just keep an extra eye on yourself and enjoy every moment.

[00:30:38] Chrismari Herholdt: The little ones, no matter how prem they're born, they grow up and things gets a lot easier. There's a lot of help out there. There's lots of people that you can, with a phonecall or online, even on social media that you can reach out to.

[00:30:54] Chrismari Herholdt: Please don't feel alone, um, and, and remember that, that there's a lot [00:31:00] of people going through the exact same thing that you're going through. It's okay not to be okay.

[00:31:06] Vanessa Pickford: Absolutely. It's been so valuable spending time with you, Chrismari. I hope that this episode leaves our listeners more prepared for the mental health impact of having a premature baby, and more empowered to reach out for life changing support.

[00:31:22] Vanessa Pickford: So thank you so much for your time.

[00:31:24] Chrismari Herholdt: Thank you, Vanessa. It was lovely sharing my time with you, and good luck to all those moms out there.

[00:31:31] Vanessa Pickford: If you have any questions about preterm birth, remember that there are many resources available to help you, including specialists, forums and support groups. You can visit to find a post-partum care professional near you, and for a list of professional post-partum doulas for one-on-one emotional and practical support.

[00:31:43] Vanessa Pickford: If you have a question you’d like us to cover, please email your suggestions to We'd love to hear from you.

[00:32:05] Vanessa Pickford: Thank you again to Chrismari for being with me today. And to all of you who joined me, Vanessa Pickford, in listening to this episode of The Health Wrap podcast, powered by Mediclinic Baby. If you haven’t yet done so, please consider subscribing to our podcast channel, and look out for our weekly newsletters. You can also download the Mediclinic Baby app for everything a soon-to-be parent needs before, during, and after pregnancy.