After becoming an aunt, Shayla Baumeler watched as her sister-in-law wasn’t able to access in-person mom and baby groups during the pandemic.
It got the master’s student interested in what new mothers were going through as they were thrust into parenthood in the midst of a health crisis.
“I’ve seen, first-hand, their experiences and thought it was something that didn’t receive much attention and I thought it was a very interesting conversation to have,” said Baumeler.
But not being a mother herself, she wanted to take a deeper look at new mothers’ first-hand pandemic stories and experiences.
That’s why the North Saanich native, who’s always been passionate about maternal and reproductive health, is running a study into the experiences of Islanders who became mothers between March 2020 and March 2022.
Health and social services did an amazing job at pivoting to reach people during such a difficult time, Baumeler noted. She wants to figure out what resources and support systems new mothers relied on as pandemic restrictions barred them from the usual new-mom settings.
Anecdotally, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine student noticed the absence of in-person mom and baby groups meant new mothers found community and support on social media.
The study will look at how social distancing or other restrictions changed or impacted the motherhood journey, but also the resiliency and coping strategies that new parents used and the value of support systems in the motherhood journey.
Interviews and a survey that’s now online will lead the research and will cover self-perceived maternal experiences relating to health, mental health and wider social determinants.
Baumeler has been pleasantly surprised by the interest she’s already received from Vancouver Island mothers. The resulting report will go towards her master’s degree, but it will also be shared with Island Health to help inform its work. Baumeler brought the research concept to Island Health, which is now supporting the study and its recruiting efforts.
“I hope it can be a resource that can be referenced in the future and perhaps spark a larger conversation and some more research on how to support mothers on the Island.”
The future holds a lot of unknowns, so the opportunity to be prepared should another disaster result in similar social restrictions could also be helpful, Baumeler said.
“We would be amiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to really reflect and look back on how this has impacted mothers and then potentially be able to use it in the future.”
Those who want to take part in the survey can go to https://redcap.viha.ca/redcap/surveys/ and enter the code: TTD9MWHDY. Those wanting to get involved can email firstname.lastname@example.org until the end of the month.