- Support groups can become a healthy outlet for you to express worries, stressors, and general feelings during and after pregnancy.
- It can't hurt to look into your options and what to expect from the many groups you may find!
- Building up a support community and having an advocate to push you through hard times may be just what you need right now.
- Practice some self-care and join a support group today!
Emotions run high during pregnancy and postpartum periods. You feel joy about bringing a new life into this world, but you can also have some bad feelings come from the changes and difficulties of motherhood. For many, peer support groups become a safe place to express those feelings, hear from others who are struggling, and learn how to cope with the emotions.
Why Should I Join a Group?
Support groups create a space for open conversation and for individuals to feel they are not alone in whatever they may be struggling with at the time. Many are also free to join, so there is no loss in trying one out! There are many different types of support groups relating to pregnancy, motherhood, and lifestyle that you can chose from to best fit you. Specific support groups include:
- Postpartum & Pregnancy Moods (i.e. depression, anxiety, emotional distress, etc.)
- Pregnancy & Infant Loss
- Military Mamas
- Black Mamas
- NICU Baby Mamas
- And more!
You can find support groups for almost anything such as substance abuse recovery, posttraumatic stress disorder, military relief, anxiety, grief & loss, etc. Joining a support group can allow you to better cope with what you are feeling, and they are reminders that you don’t have to deal with things alone, mama!
These groups are not complete without some quality leaders who relate to their participants. Training for a group leader depends on the needs of the participants and the goals of the group. Volunteers may train 8 to 20 hours to give peer support; professionals may train upwards of 80 hours. Most peer support volunteers are not certified like a professional who creates a career out of providing peer support. However, this doesn’t make volunteers any less qualified to lead a group because like professionals, their training process is shown to be effective in helping their participants. Training peers to lead groups works, because no one understands the perspective of a mother better than a mother!
These peer facilitators organize group sessions, collect registration information, choose the topic, organize flow of sessions, and provide resources for participants. They are not acting therapists, although some may have that background. Support groups may be therapeutic, but they are not counseling sessions. Peer facilitators are great because they:
- Provide safe, non-judgmental, confidential spaces
- Identify on some level with the participants through personal experiences
- Encourage participants to share their difficulties
- Can be available to participants outside of group sessions
- Act as a resource or connection to other services
- Help decrease feelings of isolation
All participants join the group for similar reasons as you. You are not alone in what you may be feeling. Some participants use group in addition to other treatment options, while for others, group is the only option they use. Whatever, your motivation for joining, group sessions are a great opportunity for you to link-up with likeminded individuals who understand you. You can learn healthy coping skills from each other and the facilitator, as well as, use your newfound community to brainstorm solutions for your stressors.
Attending a support group is a good example of self-care. Self-care can help you manage daily stressors and allows you to become more self-aware. If you don’t know what’s wrong, how can you heal? As you come to a group to find support and encouragement, you help create a safe space for other moms and help them become aware of what they are experiencing too.
What Should I Expect?
Sometimes new things and meeting new people can be scary, but that shouldn’t stop you from joining! Here’s some things to expect if you are planning on joining a support group.
- Register or sign-up for the group that you feel best fits you
- Be in an open, honest, confidential, non-judgmental space
- Spend an hour to an hour and a half sharing and hearing personal experiences with other moms
- Release emotions and receive love in return
- Gain community support and an advocate in your facilitator
- Have a good time, and feel good about attending!
Where Can I Find Support?
Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia & Postpartum Support International – Georgia Chapter sponsors free, virtual peer support groups for any pregnant or postpartum Georgia moms that are feeling overwhelmed, agitated, anxious, distracted, sad, stressed, or helpless relating to their pregnancy or having their baby. If you are experiencing a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD), whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, consider joining a support group.
PMAD Peer support groups are online only, with some groups having a dial-in option. Dates & times vary, but you can choose from weekly & bi-weekly sessions. To register for a group today, visit the HMHBGA Support Group page.
*Due to the current health concerns of COVD-19, online support groups are encouraged to both protect folks from becoming sick, and keep everyone connected and supported while we all do our part to slow the spread.
- Maternal Mental Health Peer Support Groups, HMHBGA
- Mothers’ accounts of the impact on emotional wellbeing of organized peer support in pregnancy and early parenthood: a qualitative study, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
- Peer-support intervention for postpartum depression: Participant satisfaction and program effectiveness, Midwifery Volume 64
- PSI Online Support Meetings, PSI