A Resilient Pregnancy
Guest: Emilia Ortega-Jara, LCSW
Pregnancy may be the most beautiful and at the same time, the scariest moment of a woman’s life. There are a lot of different emotions and experiences you could encounter throughout this ten month (for most women) journey that most people forget how important it is to really take care and focus on the overall health from pregnancy to post partum and parenthood.
How Important Is Women’s Overall Health During Pregnancy?
As shared by Emilia Ortega-Jara, LCSW, PMH-C, founder and clinical director of Corazon Counseling, a woman’s overall health during pregnancy sets the tone of how you’re going to honor and take care of yourself as well as the life growing inside of you throughout your parenthood journey.
Overall health, for Emilia, begins with your social environment; nourishing the seeds, the seeds being the mom and the baby, wouldn’t be possible if the soil is toxic. There are a lot of social environmental factors that are either supporting a pregnant person's health or contributing to their chronic health problems. You can't meditate, go for a walk, have fresh organic food if your social environment or neighborhood does not allow for that, or if the neighborhood is not safe and there's violence in your home. Another contributing factor is affordable and accessible food choices as well as access to social support networks or quality medical care.
Although it is the mother carrying the child, it shouldn’t be her sole responsibility to take care of herself. As a society, we are also responsible to make sure that every single pregnant person has the opportunity to experience an optimal pregnancy birth and postpartum. Sadly, United States has one of the highest, if not the highest, maternal mortality rate in the world, making it one of the most unsafe countries for women to give birth. Although we are in a developed and progressive country, we still have a long way to go in terms of making this a safer place to give birth and grow a family.
For people that may not have the resources to move or find a better social environment, the first step to addressing these issues is understanding that these kind of situations is inevitable and that’s not something wrong with you. These are symptoms that you are experiencing as a consequence of a social structural issue. Start looking for support groups or places you can go to feel safe and start talking amongst your peers about what you can do to live in healthy spaces. You have the power to start creating your own safe places, even just within the home and with your neighbors. It is also important to go back to traditional ways of healing and honoring our health especially in the Latinx, indigenous community. It’s honoring pregnancy and postpartum as a rite of passage and reclaiming and remembering these ancestral knowledge that is at our core during these sacred rite of passage.
Important Factors Affecting Pregnant Women’s Mental Health
During pregnancy, it is normal to experience emotional distress given the changes and the many uncertainties you may experience through this journey. However, it is important to be mindful if your anxiety is getting too much or has been going on for too long and is already getting in the way of your daily tasks as this will be be harmful for both you and the baby. There's so much research about how preterm birth is directly linked to maternal psychological stress and that high anxiety and depression has detrimental consequences such as preterm labor and low birth weight.
Here are a few factors that could very much affect a pregnant women’s mental health.
- Relational conflict or domestic violence. According to statistics, twenty percent of pregnant women experienced violence during their pregnancy which is more common than gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. These are social factors that are really affecting pregnant women but is something that medical professionals don’t really address and talk about especially in the Latinx community because of shame and the stigma around it.
- Societal Racism and Discrimination. During the last few years, racism and discrimination negatively impacts the mental and emotional well being of pregnant and postpartum mothers, especially on black women. There was also a research made where the number of preterm births among Latina women increased after the election of Donald Trump. The acute stress on the anti immigrant, anti Mexican rhetoric policies and the uncertainty of whether or not their family members would be deported all contributed to the psychological and physical distress that negatively impacted the preterm birth among Latina women.
- Physical and chronic illnesses. There are also these chronic illnesses as gestational diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, that greatly affect your physical condition, and even more so, your emotional and mental well being. It is very much important to have these under control though we must also understand that they are consequences or symptoms of bigger issues of discrimination, racism generational trauma especially among the black, indigenous and Latinx communities.
- Biological Psychological Favors. Another factor affecting a pregnant woman’s mental health is trauma. It could be in any form - depression, anxiety, pregnancy complications, history of infertility, previous miscarriage, birth trauma, or just any other past experiences that was too much for you to handle.
These factors causing maternal distress and anxiety are still rarely assessed and addressed throughout the pregnancy and parenthood journey. Empowering ourselves to have a better understanding of these issues and starting the change within ourselves and own community could come a long way.
If you want to listen to this really interesting conversation with Emilia Ortega-Jara, LCSW, please visit https://www.thebeyondresiliencelife.com/blog/s2-e1-pregnancy-resilience