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Pregnancy distress, all things considered (a summary of findings from my research)

Maria Corte
image by Maria Corte

It would be simplistic to offer an overall prescriptive list of the risk factors associated with pregnancy distress.

The experiences of pregnancy distress are highly individual while embedded in a social network of influences both explicit and invisible. Additionally, personal past history, which has influenced each woman’s maternal subjectivity towards what it means to be a mother exerts an added nuance to a woman’s current experience; other material, medical, environmental, relational and embodied factors, along with race, class and cultural messages of motherhood all work to affect maternal perceptions of self, the baby, pregnancy and future parenting.

Keeping in mind this both fixed but also dynamic and temporal depiction of the phenomenon, I have developed a list with recommendations about the factors that may need to be explored to better understand maternal distress during pregnancy, both based on the findings from my work and also identified as factors which welcome future exploration.

 Factors influencing pregnancy distress
Social Context Historical
  Cultural discourses on sexuality, birth control and reproduction
Social norms Pro-natalism and beliefs about femininity and motherhood
  Good woman ideology
  Good mother and Intensive motherhood ideologies
  Pregnancy shoulds and shouldn’ts
Background Ethnicity
  Financial status
  Gender identity
  Sexual Orientation
  Family structure
Relationships Everyday context
  Other women
  Woman’s own mother
  Partner’s mother
  Other family members
  Other children
  Baby in-utero
Past experiences Childhood trauma
  Experiences of sexual violence, abuse
  Past miscarriage, baby loss
  Past pregnancy and/or postnatal distress
Mental health Stressors (current and chronic)
  Past diagnosis and experiences of treatment
  Experiences of stigma
  Current mental health experiences and management
Pregnancy Mode of conception
  Planned (unplanned) pregnancy
  Wanted (unwanted) pregnancy
Birth culture Politics of birth
  Relationships with doctors, midwives, etc.
  Access to antenatal care
  Ideas about birth (fears, empowerment)
  Social norms about birth (good vs bad birth stories)
  Previous trauma birth experiences
Body Medical conditions
  Pain and nausea
  Body image and Weight gain perceptions
Maternal subjectivity Individual experiences and perceptions of pregnancy
  Perceptions of time(-liness; -lessness)
  Motherself beliefs and expectations
  Maternal ambivalence
  Sense of coherence
  Maternal orientations (Facilitator, Regulator, Reciprocator)

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