Pregnant women who are dissatisfied with their relationships may have higher chances of contracting infectious diseases, possibly leading to their babies falling ill more often, according to a study by the University of Bergen, Norway. However, the study does not directly correlate an unhealthy relationship with illness. Roger Ekeberg Henriksen, who led the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, which is based on data collected about mothers and their children since 1999, says, “My study does not prove that the first thing leads to the second. But those who report that they are dissatisfied in their relationship report illnesses during pregnancy more often. Their children are also reported ill more often during their first year.”
Finding the reasons
While the study points out that a bad relationship may lead to medical issues, doctors say other factors at play may have a more direct effect on the health of a pregnant woman. Gynaecologist Mehul Dedhia says there is no direct relation between a bad relationship and illnesses in a mother and her newborn baby. However, the stress that arises from a bad relationship may cause the mother’s immunity to fall. He says, “Stress can affect a pregnant woman psychologically. It can affect her diet. Because of stress, she may reduce her fluid intake, which can lead to urinary tract infection.”
He adds that a bad relationship during pregnancy may cause post-partum psychosis in the mother after delivery. “A woman suffering from post-partum psychosis may not take proper care of her baby. She may not be able to breastfeed her baby properly, which can lead to increased chances of the baby catching an infection.”
Experts say couples should first find out if they are happy with their relationship before deciding to have a baby. Tanushree Bhargava, clinical psychologist, defines a bad relationship as a bond that is emotionally draining. She says, “A relationship that brings low satisfaction and fosters feelings such as guilt, anger and irritation is what we call a bad relationship. A bad relationship will constantly keep you stressed, and such a relationship will have fewer moments to cherish and more to regret.” It is not uncommon that only one person may be unhappy in a relationship, and may want to have a baby thinking that a child may bring them closer to their significant other. Psychiatrist Gittanjali Saxena says that is a bad idea. “Having a child is one of the most important decisions for a couple, but many couples have children with the notion that it will save their marriage. If the relationship is not working, then it’s better to avoid the pregnancy rather than cause harm to yourself and the child,” she says.
Bhargava agrees. She says, “Couples can identify what’s going wrong in their relationships. But in spite of being in a bad relationship, both the husband and wife may want a child. So, it makes sense to have an open discussion to address such problems. If that doesn’t work, professional advice from a clinical psychologist may help.”