Becoming a mom ‘ particularly for the first time ‘ can be as stressful as it is exciting. After all, having a baby today is a whole different game than it was 30 or 40 years ago. While your mom and MIL may be eager to help with you questions about pregnancy, sometimes you really need the support of other women who understand what you’re going through right now, because they are, too. That’s where pregnancy support groups come in.
What’s a pregnancy support group?
Pregnancy support groups may be formal or informal and, depending on size, may meet in public places (a library or community centre) or in individual homes. Many are formed on the basis of a shared neighbourhood or on situations in common, like high-risk pregnancies or being military wives, for instance.
‘Support groups can provide a sense of connection, motivation and encouragement, an exchange of information and access to expert or professional information,’ says Kathryn Nobrega-Porter, naturopathic doctor and recent new mom.
Online social networks like Meetup.com can help you find the right pregnancy support group for you, whether in your community or online.
Why should I join a pregnancy support group?
Besides gaining a network of other moms-to-be in the same boat as you, these groups provide other tangible benefits, too.
Many pregnancy support groups:
- Host guest speakers to talk about health and wellness issues;
- Welcome salespeople to give presentations of products and services of interest to expectant families;
- Pool their purchasing power to get bulk discounts from local shopkeepers and service providers (which can lead to significant benefits to buyers and sellers alike, if all of you decide to purchase your strollers and car seats from the same retailer, for instance).
- Eventually morph into new-mom groups, so the mutual support can continue ‘ and your baby will have a network of future play-date pals!
How to start your own pregnancy support group
‘Support groups vary almost as much as their individual members,’ says Nobrega-Porter. ‘Understanding the focus of the support group is important’ for a good fit, she adds, noting that some groups are formed around healthcare professionals, who can ‘lend an educational element to the group.’ (This may be of particular benefit for those whose commonality is a high-risk pregnancy.)
If you can’t find a pregnancy support group you want to join, it’s easy to start your own. All it takes is a few like-minded moms-to-be, plus the magic of technology.
Start by asking any pregnant women you know ‘ and have something in common with, whether it’s the same postal code or an interest in green living ‘ and see if they want to meet up for a weekly coffee klatch.
Once you have some interested women, hash out the details of your support group, suggests Nobrega-Porter.
- Do you want to stay small or go large? Small groups are easier to manage and are more intimate, but if you guys don’t click there are fewer buddy choices in the group.
- Decide as a group if conversations that occur during meeting times can be repeated outside of meetings or if they must remain confidential.
- Set a regular meeting time. Locations can vary from week to week, but having a regular time will ensure people can plan around it.
- Cast the net further. ‘Reach out to friends, family, colleagues, neighborhood acquaintances and provide information about your support group. You can post information at local schools, community or fitness centres and grocery stores or use social media to connect,’ says Nobrega-Porter.
Use Facebook or other social media to stay in touch outside of in-person meetings.
For online social groups, a dedicated website, Facebook group page, and/or email/messaging/and texting, may be the most convenient methods of staying in touch. Message boards are a great way to share concerns, information and mutual encouragement.