Creating a Plan to Help Protect Your New Baby – and Your Peace of Mind
By Shreya Patel, Associate Director, Vaccines
August 16, 2023
Over the course of my time as an obstetric (OB) resident, I had the privilege of caring for hundreds of women – helping support them through the emotional and physical rollercoaster of pregnancy and the postpartum period. And while I may not be a mom, I’ve been along for the ride with many moms as they prepare to welcome their new baby.
I also had unfiltered access to the anxiety and stress that so many women experience in the transition to parenthood. It became apparent to me that – while certainly joy-filled and exhilarating – new motherhood can also be incredibly overwhelming and mentally taxing.
New mothers are navigating choppy and unchartered waters: they are recovering physically (and for those that had a difficult delivery, this can be very complex), and they are trying to attain chemical and hormonal balance – all whilst confronting a variety of new situations like breastfeeding and sleep schedules. Notably, they are putting their all into ensuring their newborn is healthy and safe, which can be intimidating and nerve-racking for many, especially with common viruses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) being the leading cause of hospitalization for babies under 1.1 One of the ways that I’ve seen moms reduce this stress is by having a plan in place. A birthing plan is something we hear about often – but what about the postpartum plan for keeping baby safe? Preparing for things like RSV ahead of a little one arriving can help to ease some anxieties and empower moms.
This is where new preventive options for all infants come in. In addition to protecting babies from the worst potential outcomes of RSV, they have a major benefit for mothers too – namely, safeguarding their mental health by providing peace of mind. We know now that a child’s RSV diagnosis can affect parents’ mental health, and that those who have watched their child struggle with RSV felt guilty that there was not more they could do to prevent it. The moms I worked with were especially anxious about symptoms that affected breathing, like wheezing and coughing, which we know can occur due to RSV.2 But now the preventative landscape has changed. Moms who will protect their babies against RSV can rest assured knowing they have done everything in their power to help combat this too-often dangerous virus. It’s one less thing to worry about during a time already filled with so much worry, and it’s a way to take control when so little can feel under control. With RSV incredibly common (2 out of 3 babies will contract it by the age of one3), I cannot overstate the potential impact of widespread prevention; I am hopeful that the RSV-related fears parents currently have will soon be a relic of the past – like other childhood diseases we hardly give a second thought to thanks to current immunization schedules for kids.
I encourage all women who are planning to start a family or are currently pregnant to learn about RSV. Earlier education on the signs, symptoms, modes of transmission and new preventive options will help reduce the list of challenges that all new parents invariably face. Importantly, every family deserves access to information and resources.
As a physician, I am thrilled that all infants will soon be able to be directly protected against RSV, timed to the winter virus season – it is an outstanding medical achievement; as an OB, I am delighted that this advancement will help support mothers and parents, too.
Whether you are a mom-to-be, a partner, or the provider caring for moms, it’s essential that we all do our part in reducing the burden of RSV on all babies and families – and that takes all of us becoming more knowledgeable and sharing what we know.
To learn more about RSV and how to help prevent it, talk to your family doctor or pediatrician.
- Suh M, Movva N, Bylsma LC, Fryzek JP, Nelson CB. A Systematic Literature Review of the Burden of Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Health Care Utilization Among United States Infants Younger Than 1 Year. J Infect Dis 2022; 226(S2): S195–212.
- CDC. RSV in Infants and Young Children. https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/high-risk/infants-young-children.html. Accessed July 2023.
- Glezen WP, Taber LH, Frank AL, Kasel JA. Risk of Primary Infection and Reinfection with Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Am J Dis Child. 1986;140(6):543-546. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1986.02140200053026