How "MotherWise" helps baby-proof relationships for expecting couples

Pregnancy and welcoming a new baby is exciting – but can also be hard on parents’ relationships.

“Pregnancy is stressful for both parents,” says Galena Rhoades, research associate professor in the department of psychology at the University of Denver and director of MotherWise, a new Denver-area prenatal relationship education program.

“Couples tend to report decreases in relationship satisfaction, especially after the first child. They report increases in conflict. We know that pregnancy even comes with a heightened risk of violence for women in romantic relationships.”

One of the first steps to “baby-proofing” your relationship is to brush up on your communication skills, she advises.

“Part of what makes having a baby so stressful is all the decisions you suddenly have to make,” she says. “Conflict isn’t something to prevent, it’s something you manage. How do you embrace different perspectives or ideas? It’s really important to make sure your communication is as strong as it can be.”

Rhoades also suggest couples be aware of “sliding versus deciding.”

“People often slide through important transitions in relationships, without deciding what they are doing and what it means,” she says. “You can find yourself stuck in a pattern that you didn’t want to be in. We want couples to feel empowered to make decisions, whether it’s about managing your relationship or about parenting and the baby.”

For that reason, it’s important for expectant parents to give themselves time and space for reflection. “It can be valuable to look back on your own family background,” she says. “Think about what you want to bring with you or what you want to leave behind. What do you want your family to look like? “

“Pregnancy seems to be a time when women and couples are open to thinking about change in their relationships,” she says. “Pregnancy is a really good time to make sure your family is as stable as it can be, that your child is welcomed into a family that’s strong, healthy and prepared.”

MotherWise is an evidence-based six-week prenatal relationship education program offered in partnership with Denver Health and funded through a five-year, $4.2 million grant from the Administration for Children and Families. 

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University of Denver
Research Associate Professor of Psychology
(303) 871-4280