For most women, pregnancy is the most joyous experience of their lives. However, for some women, pregnancy can bring with it feelings of intense anxiety and depression, especially if they feel little support from their partner. Depression, stress and anxiety during pregnancy can lead to premature births or low birth weights. These can impact children’s health well into their early school years.

A new study of mothers to be conducted in Norway has uncovered some of the underlying reasons for emotional distress during pregnancy. One of the main causes of emotional distress relates to negative relationships between the mother to be and her partner. Women who feel supported by their partners tend to have less mental health issues and less occurrence of depression than those who were going through relationship troubles. Additionally, women who felt stressed by external relationship factors, such as money worries or problems at work, were better able to cope with emotional difficulties when their partners offered support and understanding.

‘Pre-baby blues’ due to lack of support from partner

Pregnancy is meant to be a joyous time however some women experience overwhelming ‘baby blues’ before the birth of their child. Anxiety and depression during pregnancy can result in premature birth, or low birth weight, and impact the child’s health even into early school years. New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Public Health shows that a bad relationship with their husband or partner is the strongest predictor of maternal emotional distress.

A Norwegian study involving almost 50,000 mums-to-be looked at how these women felt about their work, family or partner, and compared their bouts of illness, alcohol and smoking habits. The amount of support women received from their partners had the strongest link with mental health; those women who were most unhappy with their relationships were the most likely to be depressed.

Illness and troubles at work were also linked to prenatal emotional distress as were problems with alcohol in the preceding year. However a good relationship was a buffer against most everyday stresses. Women who were happy with their partner were better able to cope with difficulties at work, lack of money, or other stressful situations such as moving house or being ill.

While older mothers seemed to be better able to cope during pregnancy, young mums struggled more. Gun-Mette Røsand from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said, “Failure to recognise and treat emotional distress during pregnancy stores up problems for both mother and child, and impacts continuing family welfare. It is important that antenatal courses should include relationship classes and that close attention should be paid to women who lack the support of a good relationship.”

Contact: Dr. Hilary Glover
BioMed Central

Happy pregnant parents

Partner's support during pregnancy reduces emotional distress on mother. Image: Emery Co Photo, Flickr