Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Do siblings of children with disabilities need help?

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

unhappy-little-boyBrothers and sisters of a child with special needs are often negatively affected according to a July 2013 study in Pediatrics.

If you have a child with special needs, you know all too well the enormous time, energy and resources you expend to take care of her. You do it lovingly and willingly, and often to the exclusion of everything else. But what happens when you have more than one child? As much as you try to divide yourself among all of your children, it may be impossible to give attention to your other children when your child with a disability is in need of support or attention at that same moment. You can’t read a bedtime story to Johnny if Susie needs her therapy. It would be like going out for coffee instead of putting out a fire. It just doesn’t work. You try to divide yourself as equally as possible, but the responsibilities of caring for a child with a disability often make it impossible to be equitable. But, will there be long term effects on the “typical” siblings?

The results of this study

Although there have been other studies that have looked at the effects on brothers and sisters, this study was much larger. More importantly, it looked at families with children who live with a sibling with a disability and compared them to families with children who live with siblings who are typically developing.

This study examined how the parents’ care of a child with special needs impacts the other children in the family. The study found that children who have a sibling with a disability are more likely to experience difficulty functioning at school, in sports or activities, and with friends. They tended to get sick more frequently and experience more relationship problems, especially with their mother. They also experienced more psychological or emotional difficulties than children who did not have a sibling with a disability. But, children who had another typically developing sibling (in addition to a disabled sibling) tended to do better than a child with only one sibling who is disabled.

I don’t find these results surprising, do you? When you parent a child with special needs, your world centers around your child with a disability – it is only natural. Often, this is such a time-consuming task that your other children may feel that they do not get enough time to bond with Mom or Dad. You do your best, but your typically developing children definitely get a different kind of upbringing. The study authors commented “It is not that parents overlook their other children who are typically developing. Parents worry that they can’t provide enough for all their children.” Sound familiar?

This study emphasized the financial, physical and emotional toll of caring for a child with a disability. All of these stressors can lead to not noticing or having the time to deal with early signs of trouble in your “typical” children. If left untreated, these problems can lead to mental illness (such as depression and anxiety) and behavioral problems that negatively impact a child’s life. (Not to mention that all of this stress can affect you and your spouse or partner, too!) But don’t beat yourselves up parents – you are not super-human. Instead, let’s look at possible solutions.

So, what is the upshot?

First of all, not all siblings wind up having problems. But if they do, the study authors suggest “a family-based health care approach for all family members.”  Interventions aimed at helping parents learn better ways of juggling and managing stress, as well as providing strategies to help the brothers and sisters cope, can be very helpful.

• Check to see if your town has any support groups for parents of children with special needs. You may learn time management skills and other tips to help you balance the parenting load, and spend more time with your “typical” children. The extra coping and parenting skills for Mom and Dad will have a trickle down effect and help everyone in the family.

If you see any of your children acting out or turning inward and withdrawing, explore getting him help as soon as possible. You can do this in a several ways:

• take your child to his pediatrician for a check-up and discuss your concerns;
• have your child join a siblings support group;
• have your child speak with the counselor, social worker or psychologist at his school. Often, in a private setting with a non-family member, a child will open up about his feelings. This relief may go a long way in modifying his behavior and lifting his mood.

Try to get the ball rolling on getting your typical children help as early as possible. Early assessment and interventions can make a huge and lasting difference.

Bottom line

There is no doubt about it – life with a child with a disability affects all family members. You are not alone in your journey. Reach out for assistance and you will see that every little bit of help…helps.

What has worked for your family? We’d love to hear from you.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 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.

Pregnancy – not an excuse to stop exercising

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

bikingSome women think that pregnancy is a time to sit back and put their feet up. Not so! For most women, it’s important to exercise during pregnancy. In fact, it has many health benefits, so put down the remote, step out of your office and tie up your sneakers.

Healthy pregnant women need at least 2½ hours of exercise each week. This is about 30 minutes each day. If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all at once. Instead, split up your exercise by doing something active for 10 minutes three times each day. Take Fido for his morning constitutional. Walk around the block or parking lot with friends on your lunch hour. Go for a walk or bike ride after dinner to pick up a decaf at the local café or to check out the neighborhood gardens. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring.

For healthy pregnant women, exercise can:
• Keep your heart, body and mind healthy
• Help you feel good and find the extra energy you need
• Help you stay fit and gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy
• Ease some of the discomforts you might have during pregnancy, like constipation, backaches, trouble sleeping and varicose veins (swollen veins)
• Prevent health problems like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes
• Help your body get ready to give birth
• Reduce stress

If you’d rather keep going to the gym, you probably can. With their health care provider’s OK, exercising during pregnancy is safe for most expecting moms and their babies. So talk to your doc or midwife before you start any exercise program, and ask about what kinds of exercise are safe for you to do.

Keeping your heart healthy

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

heart-healthDid you know that about 1 out of every 125 infants is born with a congenital heart defect (CHD) each year in the U.S.? CHDs are among the most common birth defects and are the leading cause of birth defect-related infant deaths.

We worry a lot about our babies and their hearts, but do you think enough about your own heart?  Since February is American Heart Month, and pregnancy puts a fair amount of physical stress on a woman, I thought it a good time to mention taking care of your own ticker before you conceive.  Not thinking about pregnancy? You still need to read this. No matter what our age, here are some things each of us can do to help improve our heart health.

Stop smoking – Even if you do smoke, you’ve got to know it’s not good for you.  But did you know smoking may make it harder for you to get pregnant? And if you smoke while you’re pregnant, your baby is at greater risk for being born prematurely or too small?

Have your doc check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  If they test high, take steps to bring them down.  Most health care providers want your BP to be at or below 120/80 and total cholesterol to be below 200.

If you have a family history of diabetes, get your blood sugar checked.  Make sure you get into a program to help keep it in control before and during pregnancy.

Eat right – Eat foods from each of the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, proteins (like chicken, fish and dried beans), grains, and milk products. Easy does it on salt and avoid foods high in fat and sugar.

Get to a good weight – If you’re not at your ideal weight (too many holiday treats?) knock off a few pounds, or gain ‘em if you need ‘em.  Exercise regularly and get fit. Exercising for 30 minutes on all or most days of the week is a good way to help maintain or lose weight, build fitness and reduce stress.

Reduce your daily stress – Pregnancy is a stressful time for many women. You may be feeling happy, sad and scared—all at the same time. It’s okay to feel like that, but doing what you can to reduce stress before pregnancy can help you better manage extra stress associated with pregnancy.  And if you’re not considering pregnancy, reducing stress can improve your quality of life in general.  Sounds good to me!

Massage away some stress

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

neck massageMany parents I have spoken with lately feel enormously stressed these days. Worries abound, sleeping is difficult and muscles ache all over. Does this sound like you, too? How about a massage?  Rubbing away the knots and tension can do a body good. If you’re pregnant, be sure your massage therapist is up-to-date on your pregnancy and is aware of any special circumstances that may exist.

Pregnancy massage, or prenatal massage, usually is considered safe, but you should always talk with your health care provider first, especially if you have:
• High blood pressure
• Diarrhea
• Morning sickness
• Fever
• Diabetes
• Heavy discharge

Pregnancy massage is a technique created specially for pregnant women to deal with the side effects of pregnancy. Many pregnant women find massage comforting because it may:
• Reduce physical and emotional stress
• Ease back pain
• Reduce swelling
• Relieve headaches and muscle aches

The massage may last as long as an hour. Pressure is OK, but it should not be so intense that you feel pain. Some massage therapists tell pregnant women to lie on their sides. Others offer special pillows so women can lie on their stomachs. Sometimes you may sit in a chair. If you are sensitive to odors, you may want to ask for unscented lotions and oils. No one wants you to feel nauseous while being pampered!

Many massage parlors offer couples massage, so your partner can distress, too. And, if you’re lucky, he may learn some ways to help you with your aches at home between sessions.  Relax and unwind.

Ask 9 questions before pregnancy

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Nine months of a healthy pregnancy is the best gift you can give your future baby. There are things you can do before you get pregnant to help give your baby a better chance of a healthy and full-term birth. Talk to your health care provider before and during pregnancy about you and your partners’ health and any concerns you many have. This will help you have a healthy baby.

Before getting pregnant, ask your health provider these 9 questions.

What do I need to know about:
1. Diabetes, high blood pressure, infections or other health problems?
2. Medicines or home remedies?
3. Taking a multivitamin pill with folic acid in it each day?
4. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy?
5. Smoking, drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs?
6. Unsafe chemicals or other things I should stay away from at home or at work?
7. Taking care of myself and lowering my stress?
8. How long to wait between pregnancies? (Ask your health care provider what’s best for you.)
9. My family history, including premature birth? Premature birth is when your baby is born too early, before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

Special thanks to the celebrities Thalia and Heather Headley for helping the March of Dimes tell women about these 9 important questions.

Is your husband pregnant?

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Since you found out you were pregnant, has your partner been complaining about many of the same symptoms you have had?  Morning sickness, weight gain, bloating and mood swings?  There may be a good explanation.  Believe it or not, some men do share in more than the simply the joy of being an expectant parent—they actually develop the physical symptoms of pregnancy.  This phenomenon has a name—it is called Couvade syndrome, although many people know it as a sympathetic pregnancy.  Couvade comes from the French word that means “to hatch.”

Scientists aren’t sure whether Couvade syndrome is a physical or psychological phenomenon—or a little of both.  Men actually do experience hormonal changes throughout their partner’s pregnancy.  According to an article in Scientific American “prolactin is highest in men in the weeks just before the birth, testosterone is lowest in the days immediately after the birth, estradiol levels increase from before to after the birth, and cortisol peaks during the labor and delivery (although it remains an order of magnitude below the hormonal experience of the laboring mother).”  So it seems that many of the same hormones that affect women during pregnancy also affect men as well—who knew?

But as of right now, the hormonal basis of Couvade syndrome has not been proven.  There are many other events that occur during pregnancy and around the time of childbirth that could affect a man’s hormone levels.  Stressors such as concerns about becoming a father, extended family coming in for possibly extended stays, and financial worries could also be contributing factors.  And, not all men experience pregnancy-like symptoms when their partner is expecting.  It is hard to know exactly how many men actually experience Couvade syndrome, but depending on who you ask, the estimates range from 20-80%.  Was your husband one of them?

Being an expectant parent is an exciting time for both moms and dads but it can also be stressful.  Becoming a dad, just like becoming a mom, begins before delivery.  If your partner is experiencing any pregnancy symptoms, just remember that they will go away soon—once your little one arrives, his symptoms will disappear.  And then you both will forget any of those unpleasant pregnancy symptoms and be entirely focused on the new little bundle of joy in your world!

Stressed? WHO’S STRESSED?!

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

stressedWe all have stress in our lives and some of us deal with it better than others.  Aside from the major traumas in our lives (death in the family, divorce, terminal illness…), what’s stress for one person may just be a nuisance for another. (So, how’s your MIL?  Got a really unique co-worker or boss? Has your car broken down lately?…)

Did you know that stress may impact your fertility?  A recent study in the journal Fertility and Sterility suggests that stress, which alters a woman’s chemistry, may make her less likely to get pregnant than a woman who is not stressed.  Researchers in the United States and England measured women’s levels of alpha-amylase, a body chemical in saliva that’s considered a barometer of stress. They followed the women for six months. Their findings indicate that women with higher levels of alpha-amylase were less likely than women with lower levels to get pregnant each day during the fertile window.

So, if you are hoping to get pregnant and are upset that you haven’t yet conceived, chill out.  Find a way to relax and let nature take its course.  If you don’t get pregnant right away, don’t worry. Nearly 9 out of 10 couples who try to get pregnant do so within one year. It may not happen immediately, but the odds are it will happen soon.

How do you manage stress?

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Taking care of a baby is an awesome responsibility. It’s rewarding yet demanding and has the potential to put a tremendous amount of strain on us moms. So, what do you do to recharge and manage the stress of it all? I’ll go first. One of my favorite past times is eating ice cream right out of the container while watching back to back episodes of Say Yes To The Dress. It’s amazing how much better I feel after a little mindless TV and some sugar. Don’t judge! I’m also a closet Facebook user. I’m trying to avoid that whole Farmville scene though. I hear it’s fun and highly addictive. Do you have any guilty pleasures that you’re brave enough to admit? Let’s hear them! Check out our fact sheet, New Mom Stress.

Get out and get moving

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

exercisingSpring is here and I’m so excited! Where I live, the past few days have been absolutely gorgeous. Between all the snow and rainstorms we experienced earlier this year, Lola (my dog) and I are happy to finally take our exercise outdoors in the warm weather and sunshine.

If you’re an expecting mommy, spring is the perfect time to get some fresh air and get moving! For most women, exercising while pregnant is safe and healthy. It can help prevent gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that sometimes develops during pregnancy. For women who already have gestational diabetes, regular exercise and changes in diet can help control the disease. Exercise can also relieve stress and build the stamina needed for labor and delivery. It can also help women cope during the postpartum period by keeping “baby blues” at bay, regaining their energy and losing the weight they gained during pregnancy. Some research suggests that exercising during pregnancy can also keep baby healthy at birth and later in life.

So let’s get out there and get moving!

‘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.