Posts Tagged ‘post traumatic stress disorder’

Can stress, PTSD, or depression affect your pregnancy?

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Contemplative womanWe receive a number of questions about the effects of stress and depression on pregnancy. Here is some information that can help you better understand these conditions, how they can affect your pregnancy, and when you should talk to your provider.

Stress

Feeling stress during pregnancy is very common. There are so many changes happening all at once—to your body, your emotions, and your family—it is hard not to feel overwhelmed. But too much stress can make you uncomfortable. Stress can make you have trouble sleeping or have headaches. Regular stress during pregnancy, such as work deadlines and sitting in traffic, probably don’t add to pregnancy problems.

However, more serious types of stress may increase your chances for premature birth. Serious types of stress include:

  • Negative life events. Such as divorce, serious illness or death in the family.
  • Catastrophic events. Earthquakes, hurricanes or terrorist attacks.
  • Long-lasting stress. This type of stress can be caused by having financial problems, being abused, having serious health problems or being depressed.
  • Racism. Some women may face stress from racism during their lives. This may help explain why African-American women in the United States are more likely to have premature and low-birthweight babies than women from other racial or ethnic groups.
  • Pregnancy-related stress. Some women may feel serious stress about pregnancy. They may be worried about miscarriage, the health of their baby or about how they’ll cope with labor and birth or becoming a parent. If you feel this way, talk to your health care provider.

We don’t completely understand the effects of stress on pregnancy. But stress-related hormones may play a role in causing some pregnancy complications.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD occurs in some people after they have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. People with PTSD may have:

  • Serious anxiety
  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Nightmares
  • Physical responses (like a racing heartbeat or sweating) when reminded of the event

As many as 8 in 100 women (8 percent) may have PTSD during pregnancy. Women who have PTSD may be more likely than women without it to have a premature or low-birthweight baby. A 2014 study looked at the effects of PTSD on pregnancy. Researchers reviewed over 16,000 births and found that having PTSD in the year before delivery increased a woman’s chance of giving birth early by 35%.

Depression

Depression is a medical condition in which strong feelings of sadness last for a long time and interfere with your daily life. People who have depression need treatment to help them get better. About 1 in 5 women has depression sometime in her life. And 1 in 7 women is treated for depression at some time between the year before pregnancy and the year after pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant and have depression that’s not treated, you’re more likely to have:

  • A premature baby.
  • A baby born at a low birthweight.
  • A baby who is more irritable, less active, less attentive and has fewer facial expressions than babies born to moms who don’t have depression during pregnancy

Being pregnant can make depression worse or make it come back if you’ve been treated and are feeling better. If you have depression that’s not treated, you may have trouble taking care of yourself during pregnancy. And if you have depression during pregnancy that’s not treated, you’re more likely to have postpartum depression (PPD) after pregnancy. PPD can make it hard for you to care for and bond with your baby. Treatment for depression during pregnancy can help prevent these problems.

If you are concerned that you may have one of these conditions, please talk to your health care provider. She can help you to get the appropriate treatment so that you and your baby can be as healthy as possible.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

NICU parents can develop PTSD due to stress and trauma

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

parents in the NICUParents of NICU babies have been found to be at risk for developing stress disorders, according to research. It is very scary for parents to see their infant hooked up to monitors or undergoing serious medical procedures. Every parent’s reaction to the NICU journey is different and what is overwhelming or traumatic for one person might not be for another. But for some parents, it is possible for feelings of fear, grief, helplessness and continued anxiety to result in a stress disorder.

What is a stress disorder?

Stress disorders include ASD (acute stress disorder) or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). These can develop in anyone who has seen or lived through a crisis or terrible event. You may have heard about PTSD in the news – many military veterans returning from active duty have developed it. The prolonged stress of deployment or the witnessing of traumatic events can trigger debilitating symptoms. But, PTSD can occur in anyone who has gone through a traumatizing event, including a NICU experience.

Every parent comes to the NICU with varying coping mechanisms, and react or handle the situation in their own, unique way. According to Stanford University researcher Dr. Richard Shaw, the NICU experience can be so traumatic that almost 60% of NICU parents were found to be at risk for PTSD. In some cases, the stress disorder continues for years after the baby’s birth.

It might seem logical that the longer a baby stays in the NICU, the more traumatic the experience may be for the parents. However, research shows that the impact of a shorter NICU stay, even less than two weeks, can lead to a parent developing ASD or PTSD. A stress disorder can occur along with postpartum depression (PPD), too.

How do ASD and PTSD differ?

ASD and PTSD share many of the same symptoms. The biggest difference between the two is when a parent’s symptoms begin.

  • ASD refers to symptoms that begin during the period from 2 days following an event up to 4 weeks post trauma. (The “trauma” in this case is the baby’s experiences in the NICU.) Symptoms usually start to occur while the baby is still in the NICU. ASD is a good indicator that the parent may later develop symptoms of PTSD.
  • PTSD symptoms occur later than ASD, starting from at least 4 weeks post trauma, and can last for years.

Both ASD and PTSD include symptoms such as trouble sleeping or staying awake, avoiding reminders of the event, and experiencing flashbacks, dreams/nightmares.

Additional symptoms of ASD include a lack of emotional responsiveness – you feel numb and like you’re in a fog.

Other symptoms of PTSD symptoms include physical responses (like a racing heartbeat or sweating) when reminded of the event, a depressed mood, persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs about yourself, little interest in activities, irritability, difficulty concentrating, hyper vigilance and startling easily.

What can lessen the likelihood of developing a stress disorder?

Researchers have found that NICU parents cope better when they:

  • feel involved with their baby’s care, such as reading to their baby, practicing kangaroo care (skin to skin bonding), decorating the isolette, taking the baby’s temperature, etc.
  • feel heard – they feel free to ask questions and fully understand what is happening to their baby in the NICU.
  • take care of themselves.
  • reach out and receive support from other NICU parent graduates who have been in their situation. March of Dimes offers an online community, Share Your Story, which is specifically designed to provide support and comfort to parents of babies in the NICU.
  • understand that the feelings of fear, anxiety, sleep interruption or loss of appetite might pop up unexpectedly once they go home.

Bottom line

The NICU experience can be difficult and even traumatizing. If you or someone you know has a baby in the NICU, please share this post with them so that they get the help they need. Parents suffering from ASD or PTSD can receive treatment from a healthcare provider who is trained in stress disorders (such as a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist).

Have questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

See other posts on how to help your child including how to transition from the NICU to Early Intervention services.