A poor relationship between a mother-to-be and her partner is the strongest predictor of prenatal depression—and massage therapy has been shown to strengthen prenatal bonding between parents and alleviate depression in mothers-to-be.

New research out of Norway shows that a bad relationship with their husband or partner is the strongest predictor of maternal emotional distress. “Anxiety and depression during pregnancy can result in premature birth, or low birth weight, and impact the child’s health even into early school years,” the researchers noted.

A Norwegian study involving almost 50,000 mothers-to-be looked at how these women felt about their work, family or partner, and compared their bouts of illness, alcohol and smoking habits, according to a press release from BioMed Central, which published the research. The amount of support women received from their partners had the strongest link with mental health; those women who were most unhappy with their relationships were the most likely to be depressed.

Illness and troubles at work were also linked to prenatal emotional distress, as were problems with alcohol in the preceding year, the press release noted. “However, a good relationship was a buffer against most everyday stresses. Women who were happy with their partner were better able to cope with difficulties at work, lack of money, or other stressful situations such as moving house or being ill.”

Earlier research reported on by MASSAGE Magazine showed that pregnancy massage by fathers-to-be was found to reduce pain in their pregnant partners, alleviate prenatal depression in both parents and improve their relationships

“Partner relationship satisfaction and maternal emotional distress in early pregnancy” is running in BMC Public Health.

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