Pregnant women often complain about receiving insufficient social and emotional support from their partners. Such support is important because twenty five percent of women experience elevated symptoms of depression after giving birth. Further, anxiety symptoms are also common among pregnant women, both during pregnancy and post-partum.
Maternal Stress During Pregnancy Can Impact the Unborn Child: In addition to the adverse impact on the mother, stress hormones released by pregnant mothers can make their child more reactive to stress after birth. Therefore, reducing women’s stress during pregnancy can be of significant health benefits to mother and newborn alike.
Supportive Partners Make a Significant Difference: A recent study examined whether women who perceived their partner as being supportive during pregnancy felt less emotional distress later in their pregnancy and after giving birth than women who perceived their partners as being less supportive. Mothers who perceived stronger social and emotional support from their partner mid-pregnancy had fewer symptoms of post-partum depression and anxiety after giving birth. Further, their newborns were less sensitive to stress, indicating they too benefited from the support provided by their mother’s partners.
Male and female partners of pregnant women can contribute significantly toward the health of both mother and newborn by making consistent efforts to offer frequent and meaningful social and emotional support to their pregnant partner.
What Partners and People in Supportive Roles Need to Know: Partners who wish to impact the emotional health of the mother and child for the better should keep the following points in mind:
1. What matters is not your assessment of whether you're offering sufficient social and emotional support but hers. Therefore, make sure your efforts are not merely an expression of your own notion of how to be supportive but that your partner actually experiences your efforts as supportive.
2. Investing in your partner’s emotional health might feel time consuming and difficult at times, but always keep in mind that pregnancy (not to mention giving birth) has a far greater impact on her life than it could ever have on yours.
3. The best way to assure you are providing adequate social and emotional support is to communicate about it with your pregnant partner. In short, if you want to know what her emotional needs are and whether you're meeting them--ask her.
Support from Non-Partners: Single pregnant women can get social and emotional support from friends, family and community members, and from mental health professionals. Such non-partner sources of support have been found to have a significant positive impact when utilized correctly and they should follow similar guidelines.
Pregnant women who need to discuss these issues with their partners will find more tips and suggestions in chapter 6 of The Squeaky Wheel: Squeaking to Loved Ones
Copyright 2012 Guy Winch
Reference: Perceived partner support in pregnancy predicts lower maternal and infant distress. By Stapleton, Lynlee R. Tanner; Schetter, Christine Dunkel; Westling, Erika; Rini, Christine; Glynn, Laura M.; Hobel, Calvin J.; Sandman, Curt A. Journal of Family Psychology, Vol 26(3), Jun 2012, 453-463.