Every pregnant woman is different but they all need a solid family support system to get them through these nine months, both emotionally and physically.
As mums-to-be undergo major changes in their body such as morning sickness, hormonal spikes and even pregnancy brain, there will be instances where family support during pregnancy is exactly what they need to tide through these experiences.
Family support during pregnancy
Research finds that pregnant women with a supportive family experience improvements in child care, health and overall quality of life.
According to a 2013 study, having solid family support during pregnancy lowers a pregnant woman’s risk for postpartum depression. Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook, a UCLA National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral scholar in psychology, a fellow at UCLA’s Institute of Society and Genetics, and the lead author of the research said,
“Now we have some clue as to how support might ‘get under the skin’ in pregnancy, dampening down a mother’s stress hormone and thereby helping to reduce her risk for postpartum depression.”
“Our results, and those of other scientists, suggest that low or absent support is a significant risk factor for postpartum depression and that strong support is a protective factor,” she added.
So, future fathers, grandparents, uncles, and aunts, take note of the different ways you can lend your support for that very special lady in your life to have a happy, as well as healthy pregnancy.
Support in morning sickness
Proper family support during pregnancy can make a big difference to mom-to-be’s wellbeing.
A common sign of pregnancy is morning sickness. This usually starts in the fourth week of pregnancy when mummies will be vomiting day, night, or both!
But, every pregnant woman experiences morning sickness differently – some mummies may be lucky enough to not suffer any morning sickness at all, while some may experience mild to severe nausea.
However, studies revealed that women with mild to moderate morning sickness are more prone to have an increase in appetite during early pregnancy. Conversely, increased severity of nausea could potentially be linked to sudden changes in diet, such as lack of vegetables or changes in tea, coffee, rice, cereals, fruit, and drink intake.
How can you help?
- Pay close attention to how her body reacts to certain foods: It is advisable to select meals that are high in protein and low in fat and are easy to digest. Try to avoid greasy, spicy or fatty foods. Here is an explainer on what foods pregnant women should avoid for the health of their baby.
- Encourage her to drink more water: Constant nausea will cause her to dehydrate and lose electrolytes, so make sure she’s getting extra fluids. Salty foods may help to restore some of those lost electrolytes. Make sure the pregnant mum drinks enough water daily.
- Serve her snacks: Prepare some snacks in the morning, such as crackers of plain biscuits. These not only help contain nausea but will also prevent those pesky hunger pangs. You could also look into getting prenatal vitamins, but make sure to consult a doctor beforehand on which ones are safe.
- Help out with chores: Her body may be relatively weak and she may not have the strength to continue doing daily chores. Take up more work at home and make sure the mum-to-be avoids chores that are not safe during pregnancy.
- Be careful around smells: Certain smells may aggravate her nausea. Try to avoid bringing her near food or cooking during early pregnancy. Let her find what smells are okay with her and what isn’t, and be sensitive to those preferences.
- Seek professional advice: Consult her doctor or free up some time to attend her consultations. He/she may prescribe a specific type of diet if her morning sickness is severe.
How to give emotional support to pregnant moms
Family support in pregnancy can give a pregnant woman the emotional boost she needs.
Expect a roller coaster of emotions. According to the American Pregnancy Association, pregnant women will undoubtedly feel a shift in their emotions because of their hormone levels. The production of progesterone and estrogen is soaring as her body preps itself to nurture the tiny life it is growing.
Some women may become irritable due to the high levels of progesterone. Every woman is different. Some may be more sensitive to estrogen changes and vice versa. These hormone changes affect the brain chemicals that regulate our moods, also known as neurotransmitters, which could be an explanation for spontaneous mood swings.
Additionally, stress and fatigue can also affect her mental health as she may also be feeling overwhelmed during her pregnancy, especially within the first three months.
Negative emotions, such as fear or anxiety, may creep up and this could be due to various factors including a previous miscarriage, questioning motherhood, or even, body image issues.
How can you help?
- Be there for her to talk to: Ask her how is she feeling every day and listen to her concerns or fears. Sometimes, listening or positive reassurance is the comfort she may be looking for.
- Be patient: You may find yourself in the centre of her mood swings. It can be hard to understand. So, be patient and try to understand what irritated her to avoid repeating it.
- Don’t let it escalate: Mood swings can lead to fights, especially between spouses. However, try your best to refrain from raising your voice or having your own little mood swing. Instead, try talking her down and discuss it in a healthy conversation.
- Let her rest: It is important she gets plenty of sleep. Take over any household chores to avoid any unnecessary stress on her – it can be the smallest of things, so be attentive to her daily routine.
- Physical activity: Encourage her to get active. Plan a physical activity such as taking a walk or even, pregnancy yoga. Research uncovered showed that upper-body flexibility is associated with emotional regulation during pregnancy.
Dealing with pregnancy brain
Also known as “mum brain,” it is a playful term that comes up when mums are forgetful. Although many consider this to be an old wives tale, pregnancy brain is very real. The science behind is that, because progesterone and oestrogen production has spiked in preparation for pregnancy, these hormones will affect the neurons in the brain – leading to poor memory.
Meanwhile, research by University of Southern California psychologist J. Galen Buckwalter, uncovered that pregnant women were found to have a reduced ability in retaining or learning new information.
But, fret not, brain shrinkage is temporary – the grey matter in the brains will go back to normal after childbirth. Furthermore, other factors such as lack of sleep or poor emotional state could contribute to pregnancy brain.
How can you help?
- Create a schedule: Make a schedule to list down all her doctor appointments and help her set up reminders on important dates or other events. You can stick this up on the wall so she will see it daily!
- Write it down for her: Buy a notebook and create an easy template for her to jot down anything important as it comes – this could be events, dinner dates, family visits and such.
- Make sure she rests: Encourage her to get plenty of sleep and rest. Fatigue can potentially lead to brain fog.
- Make a nutritious meal: Cook up a delicious meal that is rich in protein. Protein is essential for growth and development while also require to repair parts of your body, including the brain.
Looking after a pregnant woman’s physical health
Her body will go through certain transformations – a growing belly and weight gain of course, but some women also experience swollen ankles or bleeding gums!
In the early months when oestrogen is increasing heavily, women may experience extra growth in hair, including places they may have not had hair growth before. But, as oestrogen levels fall, women can experience hair fall during showers or hair brushing. Likewise, breast sizes will increase and stretch marks will be evident – it will be hard on her.
With all of this, her body is prepping to accommodate the baby. However, lifestyle changes will also be required as now she will be feeding not only herself but her baby too. Dietary changes are unavoidable to keep up her physical health and create a safe haven for her baby in her womb.
How can you help?
- Recipes: Source for pregnancy-friendly recipes but be wary of the foods that may trigger her nausea.
- Know what she needs: Read up and study what pregnant women can or cannot take. Certain foods are not suitable for consumption and can have adverse effects on pregnancy. Ideally, it is best to consult her doctor as well on the best type of diet suited for her.
- New clothes: With her growing size, she will no longer fit into her clothes. Hence, it is time for maternity wear – the mummies in her life can offer hand-me-downs!
Preparing for birth
It all went down in front of the doctor. | Image source: iStock
Giving birth can be a scary thought, especially for first-time mothers – it is almost time to meet your precious baby and kickstart what you have learnt from all the parenting guides. Hence, the third trimester is crucial for mums-to-be.
Adopting healthy pregnancy practices can help her gain a peace of mind that her pregnancy is safe and sound – it is advisable to kick count daily to identify red flags with changes in baby’s activity pattern, as well as encouraging her to sleep on the side to ensure the health of her pregnancy.
Nevertheless, as the due date nears, this can trigger anxiety, fear and excitement all in one swirl. She may end up scrambling to prepare everything in advance, so she will need all the help she can get.
How can you help?
- Help pack her hospital bags: With mummy brain, fatigue and potential anxiousness related to the nearing due date, it’s best you help her pack the hospital bag. Make a checklist and go through every item with her.
- Prep with classes: Get searching for antenatal classes or any classes that can help prep for the baby’s arrival. This will be especially useful for first-time mothers.
- Go to her doctor’s appointments: Go with her during her consultation and pay close attention to the doctor’s orders. If you can’t make it to all the consultations, prioritise the important ones such as the scans where you can understand first-hand how the pregnancy is going.
- Keep up with good pregnancy habits: Draft out a kick counting schedule and prepare a comfortable spot for her to do this. Remind her daily an hour before her kick counting session. You can even sit with her and feel the kicks together. Also, remind her to sleep on her left side before bedtime.
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Know where You can show support during pregnancy
It is important to ask her if she needs help. As we said, every pregnant woman is different and their needs may differ. While pregnancy is a wonderful gift, it has its bad days where fatigue, stress and other factors can get the best of mummies – find out what she needs and how you can help.
Here are some additional tips that she may need at times:
- Reassurance: In every situation, emotions, stress, fear and, even physical aspects can be overbearing. Make sure to give her reassurance or compliment that she is doing her best and send a positive message her way.
- Affection: For spouses, cuddles and hugs are comforting. For families, don’t be afraid to remind her you will be there for her. Any little showers of affection can make her entire day.
- Lifestyle: Going through pregnancy is a huge lifestyle change from diet to daily habits. Encourage her to keep going, or do it with her! This way, there will be less temptation to fall out of line and it’s always good to have support when going through these major changes.
Being pregnant is not easy. It can be challenging and alienating at times. But knowing she has a solid family support during her pregnancy can mean a lot to a woman and reassure her that she’s not alone in her journey.