A new study indicates that, when women become pregnant and are starting to deal with the changes that pregnancy inevitably brings, they’re likely to seek and rely on guidance from a more familiar source of counsel than their doctors. That’s right: they get the straight scoop from their mothers.
Interestingly, the study found that reliance on Mom is the strongest among minority and lower-income populations. Wealthier women with college degrees tend to buy pregnancy advice books, often written by doctors, and are less likely to seek their mothers’ thoughts on issues like what foods to eat and what tests to have — although they still talk to Mom to get advice on child care and talk about their feelings and the physical changes they are experiencing. In fact, the study found that the “how-to” books can create a “generational disconnect” between such women and their mothers. But there is no such disconnect among other populations, because women in those groups tend to feel less well-served by busy doctors and crowded clinics. Their mothers, on the other hand, are readily available and much more likely to carefully listen to their questions and complaints — and then offer specific advice. And because pregnant women usually have lots of questions, an attentive and engaged listener is a really important part of the process.
The results of this study shouldn’t come as a surprise. Mothers, grandmothers, and friends who’ve been through pregnancy are likely to have experiential wisdom and practical advice that doctors just can’t provide: like how the careful use of pillows can help to secure a good night’s sleep, and what to do about that nagging backache. And trying to adhere to the perfect scenarios sketched out in the how-to books can often cause needless worry about whether a particular woman’s condition is “normal.” Talking to someone who has been through it all before is bound to help.
How-to books are fine, but when it comes to day-to-day matters there really is no substitute for actual experience. The mothers out there have a lot of know-how to offer. In this area, as in others, you can’t beat what you learn from Mom.