Picture a room filled with 100 pregnant women. Research tells us that as many as 25 of these women will experience high stress, anxiety, or depression while they’re pregnant. But, among these 25 women who are struggling, only a fraction will ever get help. Why?
Why Don’t Pregnant Women Get the Help They Need?
- It’s not because they don’t want help.
- It’s not because they don’t think they need help.
- It’s not because they’re embarrassed.
Our research shows that the number one reason that pregnant women don’t seek help for their emotional health concerns is that….
A well-meaning partner, friend, or family member has told them that their emotions are normal, and not to worry.
In fact, in our study, 75% of pregnant women told us that if they shared concerns they were having about their emotional health with a friend, partner or family member – and this person told them they were fine – they would not take the next step to talk to their doctor about their concerns.
She would not take the first step that would allow her to get the support that she may need.
Now, many pregnant women find great comfort from other women’s experiences. It helps women to see that they are “normal.” It’s also a big reason why women join group prenatal classes, or after they have their babies, join new mommy groups. There is something very necessary and real about sharing experiences of pregnancy and parenthood.
But – when it comes to emotional health, this may do more harm than good.
You Can Make a Difference!
Now, at first, this may sound negative. But, let’s flip this around. Our research tells us that a pregnant woman will generally talk to a friend or family member about emotional concerns first. Far before she ever considers talking to a doctor or nurse.
That puts you in a very important (and influential) position to provide the support that she needs. She has already chosen you as her trusted source! Your response will make a big difference in what happens next.
What Can You Do?
So – how can you best help her?
Be compassionate. Listen carefully. She likely feels that she is taking a risk in bringing up the subject of emotional health. Then, encourage her to share this with her prenatal doctor, nurse or midwife, who can do an assessment and determine whether her concerns are truly concerning. You can also support her by offering to accompany her to this visit.
It’s easier in many ways to simply say, “It’s normal. You’re fine!” because that’s what we all want to hear. But, it might end up being a barrier that keeps her from getting help.
The great thing is that she chose you as her trusted confidant and you can make a difference!
I would love to hear your experiences and comments. Please feel free to share!