Last updated March 2012. Planned review date: March 2014
Relationships and pregnancy
The state of your relationship with your partner is thought to have a very strong link to your mental health. A good relationship helps you deal with stressful situations.
In one study, around 50,000 mums-to-be in Norway were asked how they felt about their work, family and partner, and their bouts of illness, alcohol and smoking habits. The study found that those women who were most unhappy with their relationships were the most likely to be depressed.
Sickness and problems at work were also linked to emotional distress during pregnancy, as were problems with alcohol in the year before getting pregnant. However, a good relationship helped women deal with 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 sick.
Sorting out relationship problems
Relationship difficulties with your partner may not be easy to sort out. If you're in this situation you could begin by having an open and frank discussion about how you feel and what you need. Try not to be accusing or too negative, instead think about practical ways that things could change for the better. Try to understand things from your partner’s point of view and be realistic about issues such as how much time or money he can contribute now you’re pregnant.
You can talk to your midwife about the problems you are facing. Couples’ counselling may also be an answer for you or you could seek help from an outside agency or support group.
Some women experience abuse from partners or family members. In some cases, abuse starts or gets worse when you are pregnant. Abuse from someone you know is called ‘domestic abuse’ or ‘domestic violence’. Abuse can be:
- physical abuse – such as hitting or slapping you or pushing you around
- sexual abuse – such as touching you sexually or making you have sex when you don’t want to
- mental/verbal abuse – such as constantly putting you down, threatening you or manipulating you
- financial abuse – such as controlling you by keeping your money or benefits from you.
Domestic violence can result in direct harm to you and your baby. The added stress can make it difficult for you to give up substances that may harm your baby, such as cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. Midwives are trained to ask all pregnant women about domestic abuse and to help put a stop to it. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about what’s happening – nobody should have to tolerate abuse and your midwife is there to help you. If they can’t help you themselves, they can direct you to all the support and organisations that are available to help people who are suffering domestic abuse.
If you’re not comfortable talking to someone face-to-face, you can call the Women’s Aid 24-hour domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247, where you will get
confidential advice and support.
Click here to find out more about where to go for help for depression or anxiety.
Røsand GM, Slinning K, Eberhard-Gran M, Røysamb E, Tambs K (2011) Partner relationship satisfaction and maternal emotional distress in early pregnancy, BMC Public Health, 2011; 11: 161. Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (ongoing).
DH (2004) Maternity services: national framework for children, young people and maternity services, Department of Health. www.dh.gov.uk [accessed March 2012]
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