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Benefits of Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Groups

While becoming a new mother is rewarding, the journey is riddled with constant change, uncertainty, feelings of doubt, fear, and isolation. New mothers often fear voicing their needs or reaching out for help because they fear burdening those around them. New mothers also wrestle with feelings of guilt and shame for feeling anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, and in some cases battling postpartum psychosis. Pregnancy and postpartum support groups offer relief to mothers and mothers-to-be. Read on to learn about the benefits of pregnancy and postpartum support groups.

A bust of Hippocrates who was one of the first to record instances of postpartum depression.

Hippocrates (c 460-370 BCE) was one of the first to record instances of postpartum depression.

The hardest job in the world

Being a mother is perhaps one of the hardest vocations in the world. The 24/7 commitment and dedication required of mothers are far too often unacknowledged. Mothers often lack a safe place to talk about struggles, successes, questions, and concerns with other mothers.

One in five mothers will experience some sort of mental health problem during pregnancy or within a year after giving birth to their child. The care that mothers receive before, during, and after giving birth is vital.

The perinatal period is the time when a mother becomes pregnant up to a year after giving birth. The postpartum period, which is the months following the baby’s arrival, represents a time of notable changes, newfound responsibility, lifestyle transitions, emotional difficulty, and healing. Many mothers must heal following pregnancy-related complications that arise following labor and delivery.

Postpartum depression is often a struggle mothers face following childbirth. Pregnancy yields a significant fluctuation in hormones (specifically estrogen and progesterone) and this is accompanied by increased stress, feelings of being overwhelmed, sleep deprivation, and anxiety.

Portrait of Jane Honikman, founder of Postpartum Support International and co-founder of Postpartum Action Institute.

Jane Honikman founded Postpartum Support International in 1987 and co-founded Parental Action Institute in 2015

What are pregnancy and postpartum support groups?

Locating and securing a solid postpartum support network is an invaluable step. Every mother deserves to be educated about and assisted with finding such a network.

A woman’s postpartum social support network can be viewed as a web of relationships. This web can include family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and healthcare professionals; essentially anyone that is trustworthy, dependable, and who one can seek out for help. Whether the support is in-person or a phone call or video visit away, interpersonal support is statistically proven to help alleviate a woman’s high depressive symptoms.

Support groups and psychoeducational groups for expecting and new mothers can decrease stressors, create and strengthen relationships, and gradually improve social well-being for moms and babies. Mothers thrive when supported and affirmed by other mothers who can relate to and have a firsthand understanding of the perinatal and postpartum experience. So much can be said for empathic and judgment free-listening, focused attention, reflective language, and validating statements in a therapeutic setting.

American actress and model Brooke Shields pictured with her two daughters

Actress and model Brooke Shields, pictured here with her two daughters, has been public about her battle with postpartum depression. Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic

The benefits of pregnancy and postpartum support groups

Mothers’ pregnancy and postpartum support groups seek to promote bonding between mother and baby and educate on ways to improve maternal mental health. They also provide a comforting and consoling environment for moms. Support groups can help moms decrease stress, anxiety, and depression and provide invaluable tools such as individual talk therapy, psychiatric care and medication management, and the many benefits of group therapy.

Most support groups for new or expecting moms in the Philadelphia region meet virtually or online on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. These groups are led by a licensed therapist or psychologist.

While discussion topics will vary, the following are common discussion themes:

  • Changes experienced during pregnancy
  • Managing relationships with spouses, family, and friends
  • Planning for the birth of baby
  • Coping strategies for mood changes
  • Psychotropic medications
  • How to normalize stressors and worries postpartum

The group format can consist of reading psychoeducation blogs and discussion posts (such as this one!), gleaning expert insight from professionals, and providing mothers with a safe space to vent their feelings and offer one another support, personal experience, and insights.

To all the mothers out there, whether seasoned or brand new: please know you are never alone and help is just a phone call or email away. You are worth it!

Staff Therapist and Blog Author Chimere G. Holmes

CFR Staff Therapist Chimère G. Holmes, MA, MSEd, LPC

About the Author

Chimère G. Holmes, MA, MSEd, LPC, is a CFR Staff Therapist and is accepting new patients. Chimère is currently accepting new clients. Click here to book an appointment.

If you have questions about this blog or are having difficulty locating pregnancy and postpartum support groups near you, reach out to Chimère at cholmes@councilforrelationships.org or 215-315-7551 ext. 7064.

See our Therapist & Psychiatrist Directory to find a CFR therapist or psychiatrist near you.

About CFR’s Women’s Psychological Health Services

Women’s Psychological Health Services (WPHS) connects specially-trained clinicians to help women navigate mental health through all the stages of their lives, including during pregnancy and postpartum.

Click here to learn more about WPHS.

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