Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

Staying positive in the NICU

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICUHaving a baby in the NICU is stressful. Very stressful. When a baby is born prematurely, the roller coaster ride of the NICU experience is emotionally, physically and mentally taxing for parents.

Premature birth is the birth of a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy. One in 10 babies is born prematurely, or 15 million babies globally! Of these babies, one million will die. Babies who survive often have lifelong health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, intellectual disabilities and learning problems. Just knowing these statistics provokes anxiety and worry in parents. If you are a parent with a baby in the NICU, observing the ups and downs of your baby’s progress day to day can be heart wrenching and particularly wearing.

Depression more common in the NICU

Studies have shown that “in the month after delivery, parents of preemies are significantly more depressed and anxious than parents of term babies,” according to Linden, Paroli and Doron MD in the book Preemies – The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies, 2nd Edition. The authors report that “Besides depression and anxiety, they (parents) were more apt to feel hostile, guilty, and incompetent at parenting and to isolate themselves socially…An early delivery is itself so scary that even many parents of healthy preemies react with shock and anxiety.” Given the stress associated with seeing your baby in the hospital, and the ups and downs of slow progress – it is not hard to imagine that depression is seen more often in parents of preemies than in parents of children born at term.

Baby blues and postpartum depression

Many new mothers experience the “postpartum blues” or the “baby blues.” Baby blues are feelings of sadness you may have three to five days after having a baby. These feelings most likely are caused by all the hormones in your body right after pregnancy. You may feel sad or cranky, and you may cry a lot. By about 10 days after the baby’s birth, the baby blues should go away. If they don’t, tell your health care provider who will determine if you may have postpartum depression (PPD), which lasts longer and is more serious than baby blues.

Signs of PPD include feeling tired all the time, having no interest in your usual activities, gaining or losing weight, changing your eating habits, having trouble sleeping or concentrating, and thinking about suicide or death. If you have five or more of these signs and they last for two weeks or longer, you may have PPD. Sometimes mothers of preemies develop postpartum depression as a result of the severe stress and anxiety experienced by having a premature baby. Even fathers of preemies can become depressed.

What can help?

There are many ways to feel better. Treatments for depression may include all or some of the following: healthy eating, regular sleep and exercise, talking with friends, family or a professional counselor/therapist, lowering your stress by taking time to relax and avoiding alcohol. In addition, your health care provider may give you medication specifically designed to help with depression.

Talking to other parents who have gone through the NICU journey can be very helpful. The parents on the March of Dimes’ online community, Share Your Story, “talk” to one another and share their experiences. It is a comforting and supportive community, where all NICU families are welcomed.

When will you feel better?

The length of time a parent feels down, anxious or depressed can vary, and may depend on the health of your baby, and the length of NICU stay. But usually, parents of preemies begin to feel more balanced as their baby grows, and “by the end of the baby’s first year, their psychological distress, on average, has been found to be similar to those of mothers of term babies” according to the Preemies book. But, each baby and NICU stay is unique, so each parent’s journey to feeling better is unique.

Bottom line

Having a baby in the NICU is extraordinarily stressful and difficult. You need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your baby. It is important to be aware of the signs or symptoms of depression and to speak with your health care provider if you have any concerns at all.

The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will feel better.

 

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also view the Table of Contents of prior posts.

Feel free to ask questions. Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Updated October 2015.

Special moms need special care

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

two women meditatingA new study published in Pediatrics shows that groups led by other moms reduced stress in mothers of children with disabilities. It helped to improve “maternal well-being and long-term caregiving for children with complex developmental, physical, and behavioral needs.” These support groups were uniquely focused on learning specialized techniques to reduce stress.

Mothers of children with developmental disabilities experience stress, anxiety and depression more often and to a greater degree than mothers who parent children without disabilities. It is thought that the chronic stress and the associated poor health that often result may impact a mom’s ability to parent effectively.

This study looked at what would happen if a program were put in place specifically for moms of children with disabilities (or what I will call “Special Moms”).  Researchers randomly assigned 243 Special Moms into two groups to attend a program led by peer mentors (eg. other Special Moms who received training to lead the groups).

One group learned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) techniques while the other group learned Positive Adult Development (PAD) techniques. MBSR and PAD are evidence-based practices, which mean that they have been shown, through research, to be beneficial.

The MBSR group learned meditation, breathing and movement techniques and the relaxation response. The PAD group learned ways to “temper emotions such as guilt, conflict, worry and pessimism by identifying and recruiting character strengths and virtues…and by exercises involving gratitude, forgiveness, grace and optimism.” All the moms attended weekly group sessions and practiced what they learned at home on a daily basis.

What were the results?

According to the study, the moms in both groups experienced less stress, anxiety and depression, and improved sleep and life satisfaction.  After 6 months, these improvements continued. There were some differences between the two groups that related to whether they received the MBSR or PAD practice, but the important take-away from this study is that both treatments proved beneficial to the moms.

There are programs in place to help children with disabilities, but few programs exist to help their parents, especially when the stress causes mental, emotional and physical fatigue. Moms often become anxious or depressed, which does not help them as they face the intense daily challenges of parenting a child with a disability. This study shows the positive effect of proven stress reduction techniques when taught in a peer-mentored program.

The authors conclude that “future studies should be done on how trained mentors and professionals can address the mental health needs of mothers of children with developmental disabilities since doing so can improve maternal well-being and long-term caregiving for children with complex needs.”

Bottom line

If you are a Special Mom, your personal take-away message from this study is to try to include a stress reduction program into your daily life, such as meditation, yoga, or another relaxation technique. If you can do so with a group of other Special Moms, all the better!

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

Bracing for the holidays

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

holiday-tableIf you have a child with special needs, chances are you may find holidays especially stressful. Any difference in routine may make your child anxious and his behaviors may change dramatically. Many kids with special needs seem to be extra in-tune with change. Entertaining extended family, driving to/from relatives’ homes or visiting friends can strike terror in a parent’s heart. Once you remove your little one from his routine and the “sameness” of his world, who knows what will happen!

What can you do? Here are some tips:

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

• Limit holiday dinners – either stay at home and keep guests to a minimum, or travel only short distances to see familiar friends and relatives.
• Keep dinners short and get home before crankiness sets in.
• If you are doing the cooking, limit the amount you do. Two side dishes are just as delicious as five. Ask guests to bring a dish all ready to serve. Supplement your sides or desserts with store or bakery bought items.
• Keep noise to a minimum (music, loud TV) as many kids find the auditory stimulation painful or anxiety provoking.

Know your child.

• Know your child’s limits – if he can only sit at the table for 10 minutes at a time before needing to get up, only have dinner with friends/family who understand his needs.
• Provide ample quiet time for your child to re-charge his batteries. He may need more quiet time than usual to process all the stimulation and confusion around him.

Sameness helps…a lot.

• Try to keep bedtime routines and lights-out time the same every night.
• Holidays are not the time to start new routines. Stick to what your little one knows.
• Often wearing a new outfit will produce a negative reaction in a child. If you want your child to wear a new outfit for a holiday dinner, let him see and even wear the outfit at least one time before the dinner, so that he can get used to it.

Reward, reward, reward.

• Reward positive behaviors. This is the time to heap praise on your little one for all the things he gets right. Change is hard for him, so let him know you recognize and appreciate it when he does well.

Rest up

• Expect that things will be bumpy, and be sure you are well rested to handle the bumps. Your little one will pick up on your anxiety and stress. And you will be more stressed-out if you don’t get enough sleep. So, let getting enough sleep be a priority for you.

Bottom line

Remember – less is more. The goal of a holiday dinner is to enjoy time with family and friends. If you keep things simple, you will find that you will enjoy it more, and your child may enjoy it too! The key is for everyone to be as relaxed as possible. Try to keep your perspective and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

After you deliver: Do you know what to expect?

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

mother-and-newbornIf you’re pregnant, you’ve probably thinking a lot about your delivery. What will it feel like? How bad will the pain be? Will the baby be healthy?

But have you talked with your health provider about your own health after the baby has arrived? What can you expect during the postpartum period?

In a recent study, researchers surveyed 724 women 2 weeks after they had delivered a baby. Many of these women said they felt unprepared for postpartum health issues. For instance, fewer than half were prepared to expect breastfeeding problems, hair loss, hemorrhoids, mood swings, and anxiety. Not all women have these problems, but they are fairly common.

So next time you see your provider, take a few moments to talk about the postpartum period. The March of Dimes has several articles and videos that can help.

The new study of postpartum women appears in the February issue of the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

‘Momnesia’

Monday, November 30th, 2009

19084068_thbAll weekend long I kept asking myself, “what am I forgetting?” It was driving me crazy. I knew there was something I was supposed to do. Then I logged onto the computer this morning and it dawned on me. I forgot to write a blog post for Friday. DOH!  I hate to admit that I have a memory problem (especially to colleagues), but unfortunately this is just one out of a hundred examples that I can give about the mental fog that I’m in.

I almost forgot my wedding anniversary recently. Good thing he brought it up the day before and I had a chance to run out and grab a card. I walk into a room and completely forget what I was intending to do. I can never find my cell phone. I have to keep sticky-notes on the computer screen, frig and in my car to serve as reminders. Put gas in car. Buy diapers. Call sister for her birthday. Take baby for flu shot. If it’s not in writing it’s not getting done. I actually just remembered that there are wet towels in the washing machine from two days ago. Gross.

This wasn’t always the case. I was sharp once, or so I thought. I wonder if I ever will be again or is this it? I’ve done a little reading and although researchers can’t explain all the ways motherhood affects a woman’s memory, they agree it can happen. Plummeting hormone levels after delivery, fatigue, stress/anxiety, drastically changed priorities and breastfeeding might be the culprits.

I wanted to end this post with a funny story, but unfortunately I can’t think of one, so that’s that.  Have a good day and please feel free to share your favorite ‘momnesia’ moment.

Making the best of bedrest

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

knit-scarvesSometimes a health provider tells a pregnant women to stay in bed because she is having spotting, early contractions or other signs of preterm labor.

Both mom and the provider want to do everything they can to help get the baby to term.

But let’s face it, bedrest can be BORING! Women knit, catch up on their reading, watch a lot of TV, or visit online communities like Share Your Story from the March of Dimes and Sidelines.

Some women get very anxious when they’re on bedrest. They worry about everything they feel in their bodies. And with so much time on their hands, their thoughts race.

A small new study has found that music may relieve anxiety. In the study, women on bedrest chose from a selection of slow, soothing music provided by the researchers. Anxiety levels in women who received “music therapy” decreased.

This study reminds us that sometimes medical research confirms what we already suspect. So if you are on bedrest or if you know someone who is, play some restful slow music. It might help.

The bad economy: How it affects your emotional health

Monday, April 13th, 2009

piggy-bank-smHave you been laid off from your job? Or do you know someone who has? Have you watched your savings dwindle as the stock market tanked? Are you having trouble making your mortgage payments? Are you worried how you and your children will pay college costs?

This recession has hit hard. So many of us feel stressed, and it’s been going on for months and months now.

In economic hard times, people are more likely to:
* Feel depressed
* Feel anxious
* Overeat
* Drink too much
* Abuse drugs

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has produced an online guide to help people deal with emotional and other health problems associated with economic hard times. So take a look. I’m going to.

And if you’re pregnant, read the March of Dimes article or watch our video on managing stress during pregnancy.