Bringing a child into the world is among one of the most life-altering transitions a human being, male or female, can ever go through. Even as medical researchers continue to make ground breaking discoveries about the intricacies around it, social scientists say the psychosocial issues of pregnancy and their implications on both men and women are rarely probed and even when done, only peripherally. Medical sociologist Mercy Wahome breaks down what psychosocial wellness during pregnancy entails and its impact.
You’ve just learnt you’re pregnant and in a few months, your weight will increase and the only thing you will be able to see past your chin is your growing belly. For a man, it means months of swinging on an emotional pendulum as your partner’s unpredictable mood swings take centre stage. Though all your friends gush about how great pregnancy and parenting are, secretly, you both frown about the physical, lifestyle and financial implications and how it affects your relationship. The question is – to whom do you turn to about your anxieties, fickle as some of them may sound? After all, once a woman becomes pregnant, everything around the couple becomes more about the baby and not them, right? Wrong!
According to Mercy Wahome, a medical sociologist at Mercy Medical Centre, fickle or not, a parent’s and especially a mother’s psychosocial wellness (the interrelation between social factors such
as religion, tradition, pop culture and how they influence thought and behaviour) is of utmost importance as it can determine whether one has a smooth or rough transition into motherhood. This can be nfluenced by many factors several of which include:
Though pregnancy is a gift every woman stands a chance to experience, each is unique. According to Wahome, despite pregnancy being a natural process, many people interpret the term ‘natural’ broadly expecting many couples to become perfect parents instantly. This is despite a barrage of information, judgment over decisions on how to deal with one’s pregnancy, and the very nature of a couple’s pregnancy, that is if it is smooth or problematic, wanted or unwanted, natural or inseminated.
All these can influence how a couple and especially women view and treat their pregnancy cycle. A lot of changes also occur, for instance, instincts heighten, hormones upsurge cause mood swings and physical changes such as increased breast size and the body slowing down to store energy for child labour can create problems if misunderstood.
In traditional African societies, pregnant and new mothers had their mothers and mothers-in-law dote on them. In the busy and ‘modern’ lifestyle of contemporary African society, there is little room for that. Pregnancy was also a woman’s realm as most fathers took a back seat. However, science shows that having fathers actively involved in pregnancy is beneficial. Pregnancy becomes easier when one gets support fromthose around.
Manouvering the jargon minefield
According to Wahome, while it helps to have the best expertise in terms of doctors, many medics – especially in public hospitals where pregnant women are treated en masse – do not bother to or even have the time to delve into the implications of the medical tests taken. Wahome adds that the more information one has about their pregnancy, the more confident and empowered one is likely to feel.
Wahome says issues surrounding pregnancy such as postpartum blues, poor breast milk production, hard, prolonged and painful labour can be averted if women receive holistic care during pregnancy.
Published in July 2016