Be nice to pregnant women. Is it really necessary for someone to tell us that? Yes, according to a non-profit group in Los Angeles that has been promoting acts of kindness towards expectant mothers.
It’s not just a feel-good initiative. In the U.S., black babies are much more likely than white babies to have a low birth weight or be born prematurely, leading to a higher mortality rate. More and more evidence links these pregnancy problems to mom’s stress levels. Women who are both knocked up and stressed out may be releasing hormones that lower immunity, increase the risk of infection and even bring on preterm labour. Other studies show that black pregnant women experience more stress than white women.
That’s why Healthy African American Families started a cool new campaign called “100 Intentional Acts of Kindness toward a Pregnant Woman.” This list of suggestions was generated by talking to black women who were pregnant or recently gave birth, and asking them: What do you wish friends, family members and total strangers would do to make your pregnancy better?
Over half of them wished those close to them would be more supportive, encouraging, understanding. (I love the woman who gave the suggestion: “Don’t argue with me.” It’s simple, it’s to the point, it’s a precious pearl of wisdom.) A quarter of them just wanted their partner to pick up a kitchen spatula once in a while, for Pete’s sake.
If the women in the focus groups wanted more from their family and friends, it was the total opposite when it came to strangers. They wanted less – less staring, less touching of the baby bump, less smoking around them, and definitely less commentary about how painful, exhausting, horrible and downright traumatizing the delivery would be. A full quarter of women just wanted strangers to offer up their seat on the bus, dammit.
You can read the complete list of 100 acts of kindness here. Some are big (“throw me a baby shower” and “pamper me”) and some are heartbreaking (“don’t break up with me during my pregnancy” and “don’t tell me about the death of someone’s infant”).
But a great many are simple and easy for others to do, like “tie my shoes,” “open the door for me” and even “wish me a good pregnancy.”
If this initiative really works, if the theory is correct, then just by following a few of these tips with the pregnant women we encounter – whether they’re black or white, whether we love them to pieces or don’t even know them – we could be boosting the health of all our community’s babies.
Welcome to the world, little ones. We’ve got your back.