Posts Tagged ‘stress’

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.

 

Do you know your baby’s different cries?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

infant cryingYes…babies cry a lot; but, they cry for a reason. Your baby may be hungry, have a dirty diaper or he may not feel well. He may need to burp, have gas in his tummy, or simply need to be cuddled (which is a really good reason to cry). Crying is the only way your baby can tell you that he needs something. It is his language before he can speak.

Soon you will learn to recognize the differences in your baby’s cries. His cries will not all sound the same. The “I’m tired and need to go to sleep” cry will sound different from the “Ouch – my diaper rash hurts” cry. Likewise, the cries due to hunger will sound somewhat different from the cry when a stranger holds your baby. The more you pay attention to the slight variations in cries, the more you will learn to anticipate and react to your baby’s needs.

Do preemies cry more often than full term babies?

Some studies show that premature babies are more likely to be fussy than babies who are born full term. They may be harder to soothe, cry often, and have trouble eating and sleeping. If your baby is fussy, it may be comforting to know that you are not alone. Some babies who have been in the NICU have trouble getting used to the quiet of home. Your baby may sleep better with some background music or a low level of noise in your home.

Remember to never shake your baby when he cries—this can seriously hurt him. If you can’t soothe your baby or you think he cries way too much, talk to his health care provider. Babies can get sick very quickly and the sooner you seek medical attention, the quicker your baby will get better.

What if your baby cries constantly?

Your baby’s doctor can also tell you if he thinks your baby may have colic, which is intense crying lasting more than 3 hours a day. About 1 in 5 babies develop colic – usually between 1 and 4 months of age. They cry constantly, often extending or pulling up their legs or passing gas. Sometimes their tummies are enlarged with air and gas.

There’s no one cause of colic, but there are many different ways to ease your baby’s discomfort. One way is to walk him in a soft-sided baby carrier that you strap to the front of your body. You can also try laying him tummy-down across your knees and gently rubbing his back. The pressure against his tummy may relieve his discomfort.

Breastfeeding moms can ask their baby’s health care providers about a change in food choices or eliminating specific foods that may cause your baby discomfort. Keep in mind that colic usually disappears by 4 months of age, no matter what treatments you try.

Remember Mom

As important as it is to care for your baby, it is also important to care for yourself. Moms of babies who have colic or are very fussy are often sleep deprived. Enlist the help of your partner, relatives and friends, so that you can take time out to sleep, eat well and even go for a stress busting walk. The time you spend nourishing your body and mind will help give you the patience to deal with your crying baby.

For tips on how to soothe your crying baby, visit us.

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

 

Taking Thanksgiving in stride

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

turkeyThanksgiving and the start of the holiday season is here. For children with special needs, the unstructured vacation time, introduction of new foods, travel and social situations can bring on a new level of stress. Kids with special needs tend to have extra difficulty adjusting to unexpected changes in routine and their coping ability gets challenged to the max.

What can you do to help your child?

Prior posts on News Moms Need talk about what you can do to help smooth transitions for your child, especially during holidays. Here are a few posts to help you:

Bracing for the holidays

Holidays  🙂  or  🙁

A transition tip

Avoiding and handling tantrums

More resources for handling meltdowns

Hopefully, by having a game plan up your sleeve, you can make your Thanksgiving day as calm and happy as possible.

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 see a Table of Contents of prior posts, here.

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

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.

Updated October 2015.

Back to school is hard on kids and PARENTS!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

back to schoolIt is back-to-school time… for parents. Yes, I know your kids are the ones who go to school, but going back to school is a feat for parents, too.

First, you need to buy all the school supplies (if you have not misplaced the list), including the all too important backpack. Then, there are the school clothes, shoes, sneakers, boots, and sports equipment. If your child has special needs, you may have even more items to buy. Depending on the age of your child, there may be lockers to decorate and books to purchase. Shopping and gathering all these items is time consuming and expensive. The entire process can be exhausting and stressful. It is so important to try not to let all of these tasks get the better of you, and to keep the focus on your child in a positive way. If you are stressed out, your child will be, too.

Before your child starts school, there are fears of the unknown. The anxiety may keep your little one up at night. Then, once your child starts school, there is the huge adjustment that comes with getting used to a new teacher, new faces in the classroom and a new routine. Little things as simple as a different kind of chair, lights, sounds and smells may bother your child and cause upset. Getting yanked into a whole new environment can be incredibly unnerving to any child, but it is especially difficult for a child with special needs.

Adding to the overall stress of returning to school, is the challenge of figuring out what actually happens during the school day. One of my kids had a teacher who told parents “I will only believe half of what your child tells me about you, if you believe half of what your child tells you about school.” At first I found it somewhat alarming, but then I realized it reminded me of the game of telephone. The more a message gets passed on, the more the message changes.

As your child becomes acquainted with the new school routine, he may come home and tell you information that is slightly incorrect. Or, he may tell you absolutely nothing. (Often, just getting through a school day from beginning to end is a monumental feat for a child with special needs, and once home, the last thing he wants to do is talk about his day. Rather, quiet time is the preferred escape.) If you need to know specific information, consider emailing the teacher or the Class Parent because your child may be too overwhelmed to tell you the information you seek. And, if he does talk about his day, you may not get all the facts you need to answer your question.

If you think that you are the only parent who finds back-to-school tasks stressful and overwhelming at times, you are not alone. But, the important thing to remember is that as stressed as you are, your child is much more stressed. Try to keep a cheerful perspective and know that in time your child will adjust to the new routine, and so will you. With a little luck, you may both grow to love this new year, too.

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.

Accommodations help vacationers with special needs

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

mom and daughter in poolGetting a change of scene, even for a day, is GOOD for you and your child with special needs. And now, it is getting easier to do.

I have blogged about the importance of taking time for yourself, and have posted tips on traveling with a child with special needs. But, often parents of kids with special needs don’t go on vacation as a family because they feel that their child’s special needs may not be met at hotels, restaurants or in theme parks. But, the chronic stress associated with your daily life can catch up with you; it is not good physically, emotionally or mentally for you to never re-new your energy. Here is some good news if you are thinking of spending a day at a theme park or going away for the Labor Day weekend.

My two grown kids and I just got back from a vacation where we visited several theme parks. We had a fabulous time going on rides, swimming at the hotel pool, and just spending time together. The breaks from our usual routines were much needed, and we all returned home with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

At the various theme parks we visited, I was heartened to see accommodations for individuals with special needs. “Family Restrooms” are common, where you can take your child into a restroom in privacy, comfort and safety. Ramps or special entrances enable buildings with attractions to be wheelchair-accessible. Amphitheaters are outfitted with numerous seating sections for groups that have a family member in a wheelchair. Sign language interpreters accompany certain shows, and braille can be found on park maps. Many theme parks have staff especially devoted to making sure that guests with disabilities or special needs are accommodated and welcomed. Often sports stadiums or ball parks have days especially dedicated to individuals with disabilities.

At many of the restaurants we went to, gluten free menus were prominently displayed. At our hotel, we observed accommodations for guests with disabilities:  the outdoor hot tub had a chair lift to assist individuals who cannot go down steps, and special room accommodations were available for hearing impaired guests.

Often you can find theaters that offer “sensory friendly” movies or performances, where the lights are dimmed but are not fully off, the sound or music is lowered, and families can bring their own snacks. Children are not discouraged from getting out of their seats to dance or wiggle around on the floor.

Although the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been the driving force behind many of the physical changes in public places, organizations or businesses often go above and beyond the requirements of the ADA to make sure their guests are able to take full advantage of their offerings. The inclusive, welcoming attitude of these organizations is apparent and makes it easier and more enjoyable for you to spend a fun day with your entire family.

Bottom line

If you are heading out of town for the weekend, thinking of going to a theme park or sports stadium for the day, or simply wish to go to a restaurant to eat, check out the website of the venue or call them to see the kind of accommodations they offer.  The information is usually listed under Guest Services, Accessibility Guide, Access Guide, Disability Services, or a similar title. With so many recent positive changes, there are fewer reasons to stay home and not take full advantage of a wonderful family outing.

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.