Pregnancy is a time of joy, excitement, and anticipation, but it can also be a time of concern, apprehension, and even fear for expectant mothers. The support a pregnant woman receives during pregnancy can have several impacts on her emotional and physical well-being, both of which in turn affect the health of the unborn baby.
Studies on prenatal relationships and health have discovered that one of the main causes of emotional turbulence for expecting mothers is a stressed relationship between her and her partner. On the other hand, those pregnant mothers who feel supported have fewer instances of mental health issues, and are less likely to be negatively affected by things like work responsibilities and financial concerns. The journal BMC Public Health reports that a poor relationship with a significant other during pregnancy is the strongest predictor of stress during pregnancy.
Positive relationships with significant others during pregnancy can help ward off emotional stress, make fighting common colds and illnesses easier, and even provide for a stable and needed foundation when unpredictable pregnancy problems arise.
Emotional Support During Pregnancy
Significant others have an important emotional role to play during pregnancy that can help the mother-to-be and growing baby. Emotional health of a pregnant woman can reduce her stress levels, thereby reducing her blood pressure and helping her make positive, healthy choices for her and her unborn child. Emotional support can also boost her self-esteem during a time of great change for her body, which in turn has positive impacts on mental health. There are several ways that partners can emotionally support their pregnant significant others.
- Ask questions about fears, worries, and concerns, and listen to the answer without trying to judge it. The concerns might seem disproportionate, but pregnancy often brings about extreme ideas of concerns for the future and the unknown.
- Attend prenatal classes and read books together. Even though the expectant mother is the one carrying the child, when a partner takes these steps it can reassure her that she is not alone and that she has a partner on this journey.
- Seek counseling together if needed. Untreated prenatal depression can escalate into full-blown post-partum depression, which can be much more challenging to deal with once a baby is in the home and needing care. The risks for prenatal depression can be higher if there is marital stress over unplanned pregnancies or extensive financial concerns.
- Ask the mother-to-be about her ideal birth plan, and let her make the decisions. Even just talking about the birth plan can be comforting for some women, but it is important to allow her to be the one to decide about details that will affect her and the baby, including whether or not a doula or obstetrician will be utilized, where the birth will take place, and what medicinal interventions the mother prefers (if any).
Tangible Support During Pregnancy
It is difficult to separate emotional support from other types of support that significant others can offer during pregnancy, as they all seem to be intertwined. There are, however, many ways a partner can support a pregnancy that might seem simple, but can have profound effects.
- Be prepared to take care of household chores that are either no longer safe for the mom-to-be to accomplish or ones with which she struggles. These include things like changing the cat litter (Toxoplasmosis is a virus that can be found in used cat litter and is very harmful during pregnancy) or carrying heavy items (most doctors limit weight amounts to 25 lbs. or less).
- Help with preparing for the delivery by selecting items for the baby and helping to assemble the crib, car seat, and high chair.
- Take over cleaning tasks, especially those that include chemical cleaners which can be harmful to use during pregnancy.
- Work with the pregnant partner to do the mundane, such as contact insurance agencies for medical cost planning and changes to life insurance policies.
Even though pregnancy can be a time of challenges and struggles, when partners work together to maintain a healthy relationship and the mom-to-be feels loved and supported, the pregnancy, delivery, and beyond can all be positive experiences.