Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Why is prenatal care so important?

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Doctor with pregnant woman during check-upGetting early and regular prenatal care can help you have a healthy and full-term pregnancy. However, a recent report shows that the preterm birth rate in the US has increased for the second year in a row. This is an alarming indication that the health of pregnant women and babies in our country is getting worse. As Stacey D. Stewart, president of the March of Dimes states, “Every mother needs healthcare throughout her pregnancy to help avoid preterm birth and birth complications, with the goal of every baby being born healthy.”

So, what can you do to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby? You should call your health care provider to schedule your first appointment as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Make sure you’re ready to talk to your provider about:

  • The first day of your last menstrual period (also called LMP). Your provider can use this to help find out your baby’s due date.
  • Health conditions. Such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and not being at a healthy weight. Conditions like these can cause problems during pregnancy. Tell your provider about your family health history.
  • Medicines. This includes prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, supplements and herbal products. Some medicines can hurt your baby if you take them during pregnancy, so you may need to stop taking it or switch to another medicine. Don’t stop or start taking any medicine without talking to your provider first. And tell your provider if you’re allergic to any medicine.
  • Your pregnancy history. Tell your provider if you’ve been pregnant before or if you’ve had trouble getting pregnant. Tell her if you’ve had any pregnancy complications or if you’ve had a premature baby (a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), a miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs and abusing prescription drugs. All of these can hurt your baby.
  • Stress. Stress is worry, strain or pressure that you feel in response to things that happen in your life. Talk to your provide about ways to deal with and reduce your stress. High levels of stress can cause complications during pregnancy.
  • Your safety at home and work. Tell your provider about chemicals you use at home or work and about what kind of job you have.

Make sure you go to all of your prenatal care appointments, even if you feel fine. Going to all of your checkups gives your provider the chance to make sure you and your baby are healthy and allows you to ask any questions you may have (write them down before your appointment so you don’t forget).

The March of Dimes work to give every baby a healthy start is more vital than ever. We urge everyone concerned about the health of babies to make their voices heard by going to marchofdimes.org.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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

How to cope when your baby is in the NICU

Monday, June 6th, 2016

parents in the NICUToday we are fortunate to have Dr. Amy Hair, neonatologist and director of the Neonatology Nutrition Program at Texas Children’s Hospital, answer our questions on how parents can cope if their baby is in the NICU. Thank you Dr. Hair!

What is the first thing families should know when their baby is admitted to the NICU?

Parents should know that they are a vital part of the care team for their baby and the doctors, nurses and staff value their opinions and instincts.

Parents often find their first visit to the NICU overwhelming, but in time, they’ll become accustomed to the physical environment and start to tune out all of the machines, beeping and noises and just focus on spending time with their precious baby.

Depending on the baby’s illness and how premature they were born, parents will see machines, wires, hear beeping and other potentially alarming noises. We try to introduce parents to their baby’s environment and explain what each piece of equipment is used for, what the numbers are on the monitor (vital signs) and the wires they see are routine leads to pick up the heart beat tracing (EKG leads). At first glance, the NICU may appear frightening and may concern some parents but most babies in the NICU, regardless of how severe their illness is, receive the same type of cardiopulmonary monitoring (vital signs monitoring).

The most common types of equipment parents will see in the NICU are cardiopulmonary monitoring wires, incubators and respiratory support systems.

There are so many people in the NICU. How do I know who to talk to if I have a question?

The entire NICU team is there to help support and take care of babies and families in any way possible. Parents should feel free to reach out to any NICU staff with questions and concerns. If they do not know the answer immediately, they will work to find the answer as quickly as possible.

How can parents cope when their baby is in the NICU, especially if they have jobs, other children or travel a distance to the hospital?

In addition to the stress and fear they feel while their child is in the NICU, parents are going through many changes. Mothers are experiencing body changes, hormonal changes and role changes and fathers are adapting to their new role as a dad as well. If you become overwhelmed, ask for help. Remember that it’s okay to take care of yourself so that you can better take care of your baby.

Access your community resources or local support systems whether this is family and friends, a faith community or neighbors to help you with things such as babysitting your other children, cooking meals, running errands, etc. This will allow you more time for NICU visits without the overwhelming feeling that you are neglecting other aspects of your life.

Any other words of wisdom to offer parents?

We know parents can’t be here 24/7. Call the NICU any time you like. Although you may feel like you are pestering the team, this is never the case. We know that your baby is your number 1 priority regardless of your physical location and we are always happy to answer your questions regarding his or her status and well-being.
Amy-Hair-MD-PFW

 

As a Neonatologist, Dr. Hair specializes in care for infants born at the edge of viability as well as infants born at term or earlier with congenital defects or other conditions that need specialized intensive care. Her research focus is neonatal nutrition, specifically evaluating how our smallest premature babies grow during their hospital stay.

 

 

Breastfeeding can reduce your stress

Monday, April 18th, 2016

2012d032_0483It’s true, breastfeeding releases hormones that help you feel more relaxed.

Oxytocin is one of the hormones your body makes to produce breast milk. Oxytocin is responsible for your milk letdown and also helps your uterus contract to the way it was before you became pregnant. But there’s even more that oxytocin does for moms; it helps you reduce your stress.

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “anti-stress” or “love” hormone and for good reason. Oxytocin is part of a complex interaction in your body that reduces stress and helps you bond with your baby. How does oxytocin do this? The hormone is associated with a decrease in blood pressure and cortisol levels (the hormone released in response to stress).  Oxytocin also increases relaxation, sleepiness, blood flow, digestion and healing. Studies have shown that moms who breastfeed also have a lower response to stress and pain.

So go ahead and take advantage of the benefits of breastfeeding. The deep relaxation may make you feel ready for a nap, so put your feet up while you nurse and take this time to refocus. After you put your baby back in her basinet or crib, take a cat nap to feel reenergized.

For even more benefits of breastfeeding, read our post.

Have questions? Email or text us at AskUS@marchofdimes.org.

Stress can affect your pregnancy

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Research demonstrates that stress during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for some pregnancy complications. Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy. Your body and your family are going through many changes. While a little stress is fine, serious stress may cause problems.

Causes of stress

The causes of stress are different for every woman. Some common causes of stress during pregnancy include:

  • Managing the typical discomforts of pregnancy, such as nausea, constipation, and exhaustion.
  • Mood swings. Your changing hormones can causes changes in your mood.
  • Worries about childbirth and being a good mom.
  • Work deadlines and managing job-related responsibilities before you give birth.

A little stress can help you take on new challenges and regular stress during pregnancy probably doesn’t add to pregnancy problems. But serious types of stress during pregnancy may increase your chances of certain complications.

Serious stress during pregnancy

While most women who experience significant stress during pregnancy have healthy babies, high levels of stress do increase your chances of certain pregnancy problems.

  • Acute stress in early pregnancy has been linked with an increased risk for premature birth. Acute stress results from a reaction to a traumatic event, such as natural disasters, death of a loved one, or terrorist attacks.
  • Chronic stress can cause complications such as preterm birth, low birthweight, hypertension and developmental delays in babies. Examples of events that can cause chronic stress include financial problems, divorce, serious health problems, or depression.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) disorder coupled with a major depressive disorder has been associated with an increased risk for preterm birth. PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have seen or lived through a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

How does stress cause problems in pregnancy?

We don’t completely understand the effects of stress on pregnancy. But certain stress-related hormones, such as cortisol and norepinepherine, may play a role. Also, serious or long-lasting stress may affect your immune system, which protects you from infection. Infections can be a cause of premature birth.

Stress also may affect how you respond to certain situations. Some women deal with stress by smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking street drugs. These behaviors can lead to pregnancy problems, including preterm birth and low birthweight.

How can you reduce stress during pregnancy?

There are many ways that you can manage your stress during pregnancy. Watch our video to learn more.

 

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Pregnant? Feeling forgetful? Absentminded?

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Pregnant with mugYou may be experiencing “pregnancy brain” also referred to as “momnesia.”  We hear from many women that they have a hard time concentrating and experience forgetfulness during their pregnancy and after their baby is born. So what exactly is going on?

Unfortunately, there has been limited research conducted on the effects that pregnancy has on memory. And research findings are inconsistent. However, we do know that your hormones are increased during pregnancy, which may have an effect on your mind as well as your body.

In addition, many pregnant women and new moms are busy, stressed and tired, which greatly affects one’s ability to remember things. It is hard for your mind to stay sharp when you are exhausted.

So what can you do to help with pregnancy brain?

  • Prioritize what’s necessary for the day and concentrate on those tasks. Better yet, decide on 3 “must do” tasks for the day and focus on those. Anything beyond that needs to wait til tomorrow.
  • Simplify your life; get help with your to-do list by designating tasks to your partner, friends and family.
  • Keep a detailed calendar for events and appointments. Having a post-it notepad handy for to-do lists, reminders and phone numbers helps a lot!
  • Get more sleep. This may be difficult, but what you probably need is more zzzz’s. Take a quick nap whenever you can or ask your partner/family member or friend to watch your baby for an hour while you lie down. Make sleep a priority.
  • Keep keys and other important items in designated areas in your house so you can easily find them.
  • Eat well and drink plenty of water. Good nutrition doesn’t only feed your body – it feeds your brain, too!

Have you experienced pregnancy brain? Share your tips and tricks.

Have questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

The holidays are here…

Monday, December 7th, 2015

pregnant woman in bedBesides the usual stress of pregnancy and getting ready for your baby, the holidays often add more pressure, which can take a toll on your health. Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy, but too much can make you have trouble sleeping, have headaches or lose your appetite. High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems like high blood pressure, which can increase the chances of having a premature baby.

December is a very busy time: there are friends and families to see, holiday gatherings to attend, meals to cook, and gifts to buy. So much to do! During this time, remember to take care of yourself: breathe deeply, relax and concentrate on your pregnancy.

Here are some tips:

  • Keep moving. Exercise can help reduce your stress and prevent pregnancy discomforts. If you are shopping for gifts, walk an extra loop around the mall before you head out to your car. Park further away in the parking lot (this way you can also avoid some of the traffic of shoppers trying to park close to the mall entrance).
  • Holidays are a time for delicious desserts and heavy meals. Before you sit down and indulge in your family dinner, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch earlier in the day.
  • Extra sleep is important during this time, but taking breaks is just as important. If you have some free time between wrapping gifts, put your feet up, read a book or magazine, or watch a favorite TV show. Even just a 15 minute break can help you relax before your next task.
  • Ask for help. Holidays are a time of giving, but also receiving. Accept help when a friend or family member offers and ask for help when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed.
  • Cut back on activities you don’t need to do. Instead of spending time making a holiday dessert, why not have your favorite bakery do it for you?

Holidays can be stressful, but remember to take time for yourself.

Have questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Caring for yourself as you care for your preemie

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Mom holding babyGetting through a pregnancy, having a baby in the NICU, and caring for a baby with special needs at home can take a physical and emotional toll on a woman’s health. This month is a good time to remember to take care of yourself, so that you are in top form to take care of your family. Not only is November Prematurity Awareness Month, it is also National Caregivers Month.

By nature, moms tend to be wired to care for their babies. The daily routine (which goes well into the night) seems to blend into the next day and week. The 24/7 job of being a mom can often feel like a blur. Have you ever asked yourself what day it was only to be surprised when you learned that it was only Tuesday? Weekends, in the sense that most people think of them – free time, sleeping late, etc. – don’t exist. In fact, a Saturday feels much like a Tuesday in the new-mom world. It consists of the same routine: feedings, diaper changes, and caring for the special needs of your preemie.

It is not surprising then, that many moms experience exhaustion and burnout. Who wouldn’t? Every human being needs rest. Constant stress coupled with loss of sleep is a recipe for a downward spiral.

Just as moms care for others, they must learn to care for themselves. Unless you were really good at doing this before your baby was born, it may take a bit of practice. Carving out bits of time to care for yourself should be top on your list. I like to call it using “snippets of time.” Here are some examples:

  • Got five minutes? Give your best friend a call. Just hearing her voice for a few minutes will give you a lift.
  • Ten minutes may not seem like a long time to you, but that is how long it takes to take a shower and feel refreshed. You don’t need to plan a long chunk of time to do that – seize it whenever you have someone you trust watching your baby.
  • Got 30 minutes alone? A walk or yoga video will help to create the energy you didn’t know you had. (Yes, exercise creates energy.)
  • Too tired to walk? Try a quick nap (best done when your baby is also sleeping). Even 15 minutes will feel like you have been turbo charged.
  • Schedule time with your spouse. Somehow, if it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t as likely to happen. If it is on the calendar, it is much more apt to become a reality. After all, if you went through the trouble to make sure someone you trust is watching your baby, then you will probably be sure you spend time together. But, again, it doesn’t have to be for hours. Even one hour out together will help to break up the 24/7 routine and give you a fresh perspective.

Somehow, your preemie caretaking will not seem so overwhelming when you get little breaks. Here are a few more ideas to help you.

How do you take care of yourself? Please share your tips.

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

 

Having a baby in the NICU can be stressful for siblings

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

IMG_9387Giving birth early and having a baby in the NICU is stressful for parents; but what is sometimes overlooked is how upsetting it is for the preemie’s siblings.

A change in routine is upsetting to children. Having mom and dad away from home for long periods of time can turn even the most well-adjusted child upside down. If your child has not been able to visit her sibling or she does not have a solid grasp on what is happening, the uncertainty of the situation can cause distress. What can you do to ease the anxiety that is trickling down to the smallest members of your family?

  • Talk to your child at a level that she can understand. There are children’s books that explain prematurity. These books can make the explanation much easier for parents. Check with your local library for appropriate titles.
  • Reassure your child that nothing she did or said caused her sibling to be born early. Some kids may blame themselves or feel guilty.
  • Your child might be very worried and fear that the baby may never come home. As best you can, let your child know that you and the doctors and nurses are taking good care of her baby sibling, just as they would take care of her.
  • Understand the signs of distress in your child. Any regression (loss) in developmental progress (such as bed wetting, not sleeping through the night, acting out or being excessively attached to you), may indicate that your child is feeling the negative effects of the situation.
  • If possible, have your child visit your baby in the NICU.
  • In the Preemies book, you can read about these and other ways to minimize the anxiety that having a baby in the hospital can have on your family.

Do you have any tips to share on how to help your older children got through the stress of having a baby sibling in the NICU? Please share.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

 

Stop. Rest. Relax…Repeat.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

things to do I am not one who can easily relax. Usually, I need a brick wall in front of me to make me stop (or a cliff will do fine, too). Adrenaline runs through my veins. I am continually creating and updating my to-do lists (or as I call them, my must-do lists) and the I-don’t-have-time-to-relax attitude often overtakes me.

Now, I KNOW, that I need to relax, for the sake of good health and a clear mind. I KNOW I need sleep, a healthy diet and exercise. But, when the list of all that needs to be done is before my eyes, or in my hand, or on my phone, I have a very hard time turning away from it and shutting down my mind. Does this happen to anyone else out there?

As parents, we have the responsibility of providing for our children – financially, physically, emotionally and in every other way that they need. Parents of children with special needs face additional tasks to conquer, from appointments with specialists, to IEP meetings, to figuring out a system with continual twists, turns and dead ends. For pregnant women, stress related hormones may play a role in causing certain pregnancy complications. Unless we purposefully have a method or a way to shut off the engine and refuel it, we risk burn-out and ill health.

But, easier said than done.

A few years ago, I took up yoga, as I knew that it offered health benefits. Among the benefits is a curious thing called “mindfulness.” Now, I am a science geek at heart, so the touchy-feely aspect was not really something I gravitated toward. But, I gave it a try anyway. What is this thing called “mindfulness?”

Well, it is a way to help shut out the noise of everything around you (and even your own busy mind), and just…be. At first I was not able to just sit and “be.” Be what? I am a do-er. Not a be-er. But, I kept going to yoga class thinking that there must be something to this, and to just give it time.

relaxing at workEventually, (after about a year!) I got comfortable and even good at sitting down on my mat, crossing my legs, uttering OOOOOOOMMMMMMM a few times, and becoming “present in the moment.” My yoga instructor would say “you have nowhere to be, nothing to do, but to be here, present.” I would concentrate on my breathing (never did that before!), and work on blocking everything out of my mind (much harder than it sounds).

During class, I give myself permission to put the world on hold for an hour. My must-do list will be there when I am done, and my noisy world will return, but for this one hour I honor myself, I rest my mind, I invigorate my body, and I …..relax. What a concept!

When my son was in first grade, he received a writing assignment; the topic was “my favorite thing to do.” He wrote “My favorite thing to do….is to relax. I like to go home, lie on the couch, put my feet up and just watch a movie.” (His teacher was not too happy, as she expected to hear he liked to play a sport or build a Lego creation, but I found it enlightening.) His favorite thing, was letting go, relaxing….just “be”ing. Hmmmm. Kids GET this.

April is Stress Awareness Month, so, as you rush around, going from appointment to appointment, crossing off items on your must-do list, remember that you can only go so far without re-fueling. The stop-rest-relax portion of your day is as important as the go-go-go part. It does not have to be through yoga, but find something that helps you relax your body AND mind. Then, when you pick up and go again, you will be refreshed and able to handle whatever comes your way. Believe me, if I can do it, you can, too.

So, try this as your new mantra for today:  stop – rest – relax.

And tomorrow?

Repeat.

 

For more posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.