Welcome to the first post in my series 10 Days of Crochet Health. I’m going to kick it off by talking about crocheting through problems related to pregnancy. In my research for Crochet Saved My Life I learned about how women were using crochet to deal with anxiety during pregnancy, pain management in the third trimester and even in the delivery room and also post-partum depression. Crochet can be a healing tool for each of these periods in a difficult pregnancy.
Crocheting Through Pregnancy Anxiety
It is natural to experience anxiety during any pregnancy. You wonder if everything is going to go okay. If it’s your first pregnancy, you may be anxious about what’s going to happen to your body in the months to come. During any pregnancy, you may worry about potential risks and problems the baby may encounter. This worry can easily increase to full-blown anxiety if the pregnancy becomes a difficult one, especially if it requires third trimester bedrest. Many women find that crocheting through the bedrest period is healing.
In fact, some hospitals even have knit and crochet programs for pregnant women on bedrest in the hospital. A 2006 article in a medical journal talks about Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Northern California, a program that revealed that neeedlecrafts reduced both stress and pain in the women who participated in the program.
Crocheting helped reduced stress in a few different ways:
- Instead of sitting in bed excessively worrying about their baby’s medical issues, they could engage in the meditative act of crochet. The repetitiveness of the craft is very relaxing and helps bring the body into a calmer state.
- Many mothers felt disconnected from their babies and this heightened their stress levels. By crocheting something for the baby, they could begin to feel more connected to the life growing inside of them and this often induced relaxation.
- The women who were all on the ward together felt more comfortable talking to each other when they were also crocheting. Just sitting in a group and talking was uncomfortable and awkward but with the shared craft of crochet in the room the women relaxed. This eventually enabled them to talk openly about their fears and anxieties surrounding the pregnancy and then they would see that other women were going through the same thing and this decreased the mystery around the stress.
Crochet for Pain Management
The program at Alta Bates also revealed that women could use crochet to deal with pregnancy-related pain. Pain management is a topic I cover at length in the new book because crochet not only helps distract the mind from pain but may also produce a physical response in the body that actually reduces pain. It can be especially useful in cases, like pregnancy, where the patient does not want to take medication to manage pain. (In the case of pregnancy this is because of a concern for how the medication would affect the baby.)
Crochet works first and foremost for pain management because it serves as a distraction from the pain. If you can get your mind off of the pain in your body then you effectively reduce the feeling of the pain even though the physical sensation hasn’t changed. One of the women I interviewed for the book was Kristine of Ambassador Crochet who used crochet to help her with both the anxiety and the pain management during labor. She shared:
“With my last pregnancy, as my due date came closer, I found myself growing anxious. After having several complicated deliveries in a row (my 5th was delivered not breathing with shoulder distocia), I was in major fear of what would happen this time around. It got so bad that it was all I could think about. And of course, the more I thought about it, the more worried I became. During one of my last OB appointments, my doctor said to try to bring something in the delivery room that would put my focus on something other than childbirth, and maybe that would help. I immediately decided to bring a crochet project. It definitely helped take my mind off of the pain.”
Crochet may be more than just a distraction from pain, though. The act of crochet likely produces serotonin. One of the functions of serotonin in the body is that it’s an analgesic, or a natural painkiller. Basically, if you can increase your serotonin levels then you can increase your pain threshold and crochet is one possible way to boost serotonin.
Crocheting to Cope with Post-Partum Depression
Once the baby has finally come you might expect everything to be hunky-dory but that’s often not the case. Even in an ideal situation a new mother is exhausted and stressed out (and may still use crochet to help calm her during this time!) Sometimes this can lead to post-partum depression, a true and serious period of clinical depression that goes beyond just “the baby blues” and can make even getting out of bed seem like a daunting, miserable prospect.
Because my own experience of healing with crochet was healing through depression I devoted a large chunk of the book to this topic and there is a lot of information in there about why crochet helps with depression of any kind. I had the opportunity to interview Rachel from Maybe Matilda who shared with me how crochet helped get her through post-partum depression. She shared:
“PPD made me feel terribly anxious, jittery, unable to focus, and worried, but crochet was so comforting and soothing. I could just sit and focus completely on the stitches in my hands and forget about how awful I felt the rest of the time. It was something so simple and ordinary, and I wasn’t creating anything huge or impressive, but it helped to reduce my anxiety and allowed me to relax for the first time since my son’s birth. Even with him crying in the background, I could sit down with my crochet work and feel a bit of peace and calm. I couldn’t obsess over my own thoughts and feelings when I was concentrating on the work in my hands.”
I found in my research that many women may have used needlework to get through post-partum depression in the 1950’s and 1960’s before the condition had a name or was recognized as a real problem. These women didn’t have books and blogs to tell them that crochet could help but they had their friends and their instincts and discovered this same truth on their own.
Do you know a crafty woman who is pregnant right now? Share this article with her!