We sustain culturally and economically a system which contemplates the state of health of a person as the absence of symptoms or diseases, but according to the salutogenic theory our state of health depends on the continuous ability to transform heterostatic processes into homeostatic.
We live in situations of constant exposure to stress that are not responsible for our discomforts. Our ability to react and adapt, and the meaning we give to events, are what determine our health or illness. The stressors are salutogenic and vitalizing if they are accompanied by very intense personal resources and support.
Difficult, negative experiences, diseases or weakness, as we traditionally understand them, are compatible with a full life when we reinforce our reactive resources. The fact of not perceiving events as a punishment or not living them with guilt, and taking advantage of the situation to develop our own resources, has a positive effect on our health because it makes us proactive, committed and self-protective, and situations affect less negatively, turning disease into a challenge rather than an adverse event.
A new concept of assistance and research emerges from this theory, not only opposed to that of pathogenesis, which focuses on avoiding suffering or disease (the pathogen), but expanded to the lifestyle and social environment. It puts focus on how to generate, maintain and restore health. It implies discovery and use of our own sources of health, and it need we think and involve ourselves actively in the search for our well-being. It understands health and disease as a continuum, and it investigates those cases in which people, in the presence of adverse conditions, do not get sick and remain healthy. It is a model based on the sustainability of the human being or biosocioecological model.
Salutogenic theory goes with motherhood perfectly because coping skills are created in the perinatal period and, especially, in the first years of life. Being a mother, giving birth to a baby, taking care of it and helping it to grow, involve physiological stress for the body and mind, regulated by prolactin and facilitated by oxytocin and endorphins, potentially salutogenic and vitalizing. In addition, the salutophysiology of pregnancy offers women a fabulous opportunity to strengthen their general resistance resources. This process can be pathogenic if the woman’s coping abilities are insufficient or inhibited. Resources, although innate, can be reinforced at this sensitive moment, and health system and society as a whole would come into play here. We have a new job ahead!
Author: Sofia González Salgado. Midwife since 2004