Poor physical and/or mental health, in addition to a lack of social support, are common problems in pregnancy. This article discusses a number of key interventions to reduce the risk of negative outcomes in women experiencing such problems during their pregnancy.
Poor physical health is a key issue for a growing number of pregnant women in modern society. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, coupled with an inadequate diet, significantly increase a woman’s risk of a range of negative pregnancy outcomes – including gestational hypertension/diabetes, uncertain fetal position, antenatal infection and postpartum haemorrhage – as well as increasing overall fatigue levels and the rate of development of numerous significant comorbidities (Crafter, 2009; Kramer, 2010). Midwives should discuss with women the critical importance of maintaining adequate nutrition, weight and exercise throughout pregnancy, and also of avoiding the risk of acquiring potentially harmful food-borne infections through the consumption of pre-cooked take-away foods. Midwives may also suggest referral to a gestational nutritionist to improve a woman’s capacity to cope with the health requirements of pregnancy.
The risk of high levels of anxiety and/or stress is another key pregnancy issue for many modern women. Increased antenatal stress is a significant risk factor for the development of postnatal depression, and due to the complexity of this condition prevention is paramount (Austin, Priest & Sullivan, 2008; Joanna Briggs Institute 2009). Antenatal stress may also contribute to low birthweight neonates and negative childhood behavioral irregularities (Littleton, Bye, Buck & Amacker, 2010; Parcells, 2010). Midwives should thoroughly assess a woman’s risk for psychosocial difficulty and recommend appropriate support services – including pregnancy counselors, work rights advocates, financial planners and/or family assistance benefits, etc.
Though women are likely to require significant physical and/or emotional support throughout pregnancy (Grigg, 2009), a lack of support is a growing problem for many modern women. There is a direct correlation between a lack of social support throughout pregnancy and unfavourable outcomes, including the increased risk of antenatal hospital admission, unplanned caesarian birth and unsuccessful breastfeeding (Hodnett, Fredericks & Weston, 2010). Midwives may suggest for women lacking social support networks to commence antenatal classes and/or join community mother’s groups (Smith & Nolan, 2009), or to consider novel and unique ways of more greatly involving immediate and extended family in the pregnancy.
While poor physical and/or mental health and a lack social support are common problems in pregnancy, this article has outlined a number of useful practical interventions to reduce the risk of negative pregnancy outcomes.
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