Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Plug In to Community for a Healthy Pregnancy

by Melissa Garvey, ACNM Writer and Editor

An interesting study from the University of Michigan rolled into the ACNM news alerts this week. It involved 297 African American and European American women through 32 weeks of pregnancy. Compared to women of higher status based on race or education and income, African American women and women of lower socioeconomic status had higher levels of stress and higher blood pressure during pregnancy. However, women who felt a strong sense of community (higher communalism) did not experience these disparities.
Results of the study suggest that a woman’s sense of community is more important for her mental health during pregnancy than ethnicity or socioeconomic status. It also suggests that community can counteract the effect of ethnic minority and lower socioeconomic status on pregnant women’s blood pressure.
There is a catch. Researchers also found that higher socioeconomic status is associated with a higher sense of community—regardless of ethnic background. Let’s face it. Resources—including community—are easier to come by when you have more money.

Look for the study this month in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology. To learn more about the effects of communalism on health during pregnancy, you may also want to read a 2007 study in Obstetrics & Gynecology, which found group prenatal care—based on the CenteringPregnancy model created by Sharon Schindler Rising, CNM—is associated with a 33% reduction in risk of preterm birth.
Looking for a way to increase your sense of community? Try connecting online. Here are a couple suggestions. Feel free to add your favorite online community in the comments section of this post.
  • Who It’s For: Written by and for real women, this Lamaze International-hosted online community is the go-to place for information and support related to pregnancy, birth, parenting, and breastfeeding.
  • Features: Follow several bloggers, including one woman posting regular updates about her pregnancy. The site also features discussion groups and allows members to create their own groups.
  • Who It’s For: Women with high-risk pregnancies or on bed rest.
  • Features: KeepEmCookin features online forums, a place to share your story, and links to news and resources related to preterm birth.

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