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As human beings, we have been designed for connection. As Marianne Williamson advocated, “You have to make a space in your heart, in your mind and in your life itself for authentic human connection.” Connection is not just something we need or something we crave. It is something we can create time and space for if we want it. When we are pregnant and in the early days of motherhood, finding a group of women who can relate to what you’re going through when no one else can is significant. Welcome to the Pregnancy Circle.
As described by Anna Watts, “This can be a place for women to get to know each other during pregnancy and form friendships that may continue into early motherhood. In the late ’80s, the founder of the Active Birth Movement, Janet Balaskas, offered ‘tea and birth’ chats following her prenatal yoga classes in London. This quickly became a way for women to share pregnancy stories and ideas for managing labour and express their feelings in a safe, non-judgmental space.”
Essentially these are support groups facilitated by a coach or therapist where pregnant moms can hold space for one another. It’s a support group of mothers-to-be going through similar experiences.
The benefits of a pregnancy circle are tremendous.
- Beststart.org describes how formal or informal social support aids women in adjusting to motherhood. Furthermore, it helps “women undergo hormonal changes and psychological stressors and promotes good mental health in new parents.” Similarly, there is a correlation between greater maternal, child and family well-being.
- T.A Webb highlighted that a “burden shared is a burden halve.” In other words, sharing your fears, however small or insignificant you may think they are, or however great they may be, a lighter when shared with others. A pregnancy circle is a safe space to share those fears with others who can relate and empathise with you.
- Another way of thinking about a pregnancy circle is a peer support group. A study by Jenny McLeish and Maggie Redshaw of the National Library of Medicine has made the following discoveries. These pregnancy circles or peer support groups significantly contribute to mothers “being heard” and feeling far more confident. They contribute to the expectant mothers’ sense of empowerment and “feeling valued” while “reducing stress.” They concluded what essentially women had experienced when with their community of support: “Women described how peer support contributed to reducing their low mood and anxiety by overcoming feelings of isolation, disempowerment and stress, and increasing feelings of self-esteem, self-efficacy and parenting competence.”
- Anna Watts describes her time with her pregnancy circle: “We sat in circle fortnightly, shared our feelings, laughed, cried and walked alongside each other as we navigated the path of parenting.”
Finding a pregnancy circle may take a bit of effort as you and your close friends may be at different stages of your lives. This is why antenatal group classes have become popular. Perhaps take the idea to your group and healthcare practitioner to hold space for one another beyond the practicalities of birth.