Susan Newman Ph.D. | Posted October 17, 2017
"Who hasn’t had her child-rearing choices questioned—by family, friends, your spouse, or a stranger? Who in your circle is most judgmental?
As a parent, you are subject to comment on a host of parenting decisions: Whether you decide to breastfeed or not; to co-sleep or not, go back to work or stay home with your children, what you let your children eat for breakfast; how you discipline or dress them, the bedtime you set or the time you allow or don’t on “screens”…Often, the “advice” or “suggestion” is completely unsolicited and makes you feel guilty or uncertain.
On social media, even benign parenting practices are subject to criticism. Unlike the rest of us, celebrities are publicly “mom-shamed” more frequently on the Internet. Mariah Carey received a wave of criticism for posting a photo of her 4-year-old son still using a pacifier. Several stars, from Mila Kunis to Chrissy Tiegen to Maggie Gyllenhaal, have been targeted online for breastfeeding in public. Actress Olivia Wilde was berated for posting a picture kissing her young son on the lips.
A new poll finds a majority of American mothers are being judged, some on the Internet, some in person. The University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital conducted a national poll surveying 475 mothers of children aged 5 and younger. They were asked if they’ve ever had their parenting questioned.
Sixty-one percent responded that they have been criticized for their child-rearing decisions. The most common topic of criticism: Discipline. Seventy percent of criticized moms reported this. The second-most-cited denunciation concerned diet and nutrition; the third, sleep; the fourth, breast versus bottle-feeding, fifth, child safety, and sixth, childcare decisions.
Although sometimes the criticism is intended to be constructive, 62 percent of those sampled said they believe mothers receive “a lot of unhelpful advice from other people”; 56 percent said mothers “get too much blame and not enough credit for their children’s behavior.”
Family More Likely to Judge
According to the study, family members comprised the top three groups of “mom shamers.” The moms who felt criticized said their own parents (37 percent), co-parent (36 percent) and in-laws (31 percent) were the most frequent to pass judgment. “This may reflect the high volume of interactions with family members, or that mothers may interpret family criticism as an attack by those who should be more supportive,” the researchers noted.
Remarking on the stress and overwhelming choices of new parenthood, the study points out that 42 percent of the criticized mothers said the judgment “made them feel unsure about their parenting choices.” As a parent, you have the ultimate say—even if you’re conflicted about your choices.
10 Tips for Standing Up To Mom-Shaming
When it comes to standing up to those who judge you, it can be tricky to assert your parenting authority and keep conflicts at bay. Here are 10 insights and suggestions to help bolster you against those who believe they know what you should be doing and how to do it.
By: Austin Perlmutter M.D. | The Modern Brain
"There’s just no way around it: our brain health is about the most valuable thing we own. When our brains are unhealthy, we can’t think straight. Our mental health is poor. We simply can’t enjoy life as well. With this in mind, finding ways to prioritize brain health every day is vital. So what are some of the most scientifically sound, easy ways to make sure you’re helping care for your brain? Here are three of the best:
1. Prioritize Good Sleep
Why it’s key: You’ve probably heard people diminish the importance of sleep by saying things like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” But if you don’t prioritize sleep, you’re doing your body and especially your brain a great disservice. Pick just about any disease and you’ll find that it’s more prevalent or more severe in people who don’t get good sleep. For example, we now know that people with Alzheimer’s tend to have issues sleeping. Poor sleep may also increase the risk of developing dementia. When it comes to mental health, these same trends hold. Sleep issues are very common in people with mental health issues, and are also thought to increase one’s risk for developing these conditions.
Tips for better sleep: Many are seeking quick fixes for sleep issues, especially insomnia. But while some people may benefit from short-term use of drugs, there are mounting concerns about the side effects and efficacy of prescription sleep aids. To this end, finding non-pharmaceutical methods of promoting healthy sleep are likely a better long-term solution for most people. Simple strategies to facilitate better sleep include winding down with a regular routine that minimizes blue light/screen exposure in the hours before bed. Also, consider sleeping with your room a bit cooler, as this may promote better sleep. Try cutting out caffeine after 2 p.m. (or earlier) and consider avoiding alcohol before bed, as this throws off sleep quality. Lastly, consider speaking to your physician about an evaluation for sleep apnea, especially if you are male, overweight, or someone who snores. Sleep apnea is a very common condition that majorly compromises sleep quality and is often missed.
2. Move Your Body
Why it’s key: Study after study shows that regular exercise is linked to better brain health. People who move more tend to think better and have better mental health. In fact, a recent review in JAMA showed that exercise may act as an antidepressant. So why is exercise such a brain booster? It may lower inflammation (which damages brain function), increase molecules like BDNF (which promotes healthier brain function and growth of new brain cells), and it does great things for our blood sugar (higher blood sugar may damage brain health).
Tips for physical activity: You don’t need to train for a marathon or become a professional athlete to get the brain benefits of exercise. This is all about sustainability, and if you hate or get injured when you’re exercising, it’s unlikely you’ll stick to it. Instead, look for ways to make physical activity enjoyable. A walk with a friend, some yoga, lifting some weights, or going for a swim—it’s all great stuff. The best exercise is the one you enjoy because it’s what you’re most likely to keep doing. So, find something you can look forward to.
3. Clean Up Your Diet
Why it’s key: The foods you eat are the literal building blocks for your brain. Food is also what turns into neurotransmitters. Your diet significantly influences your immune and endocrine (hormone) systems that play key roles in your brain health. Food is also one of the best opportunities we have to influence our health on a day-to-day basis because we absolutely have to eat, but we get to choose whether that food is a vote for a healthier or a less healthy brain."
By: Abby Lindquist
"Today I'm sharing all of my tips and tricks for getting through those first few weeks with newborn baby. These are the things I wish I knew when I had my first baby. I hope they are helpful for you! Please give this video a thumbs up and subscribe if you aren't already! Thanks so much for watching!"
Tiffiny Hall | TEDxDocklands | March 15, 2019
"Tiffiny Hall is founder of TIFFXO.com and author of nine books. She is passionate about helping women feel confident and strong. Tiffiny explores the pressures placed on women to bounce back and lose weight after they give birth and shares her experiences in dealing with the bounce back culture after she had a baby. Speaking on the importance of mind over matter during the fourth trimester, Tiffiny shares her tips to help women gradually return to fitness after pregnancy and birth. Celebrity trainer, founder of lifestyle program TIFFXO.com, author, podcaster and martial arts expert, Logie nominated Tiffiny Hall has many titles tucked under her 6th Dan Taekwondo black belt.
Tiffiny Hall is a one-woman fitness business, with over 20 years’ experience as a personal trainer and coach. Expert in HIIT and HIRT, she rose to prominence on TV in many roles from a Gladiator on Gladiators to a trainer on The Biggest Loser Australia and is now transforming devotees – from athletes to new mums – via her very successful health and fitness app TIFFXO.com. She is a mum, mentor and magnate. One of the most qualified martial artists in the world for her age, she’s a 6th Dan Taekwondo black belt and has mixed martial arts workout plans that will kick your butt in the best possible way. She is the Director of Training for the largest global fitness app in the world. A role that has seen her travel the world & work with the most famous and prestigious experts in the wellness space This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx"
By: Auburn Harrison | TEDxUniversity of Nevada
"It's the most common complication of childbirth, yet PPD is a condition clouded with stigma, shame and guilt for mothers who experience it. According to Postpartum Support International, 15% of women suffer from postpartum depression, yet women are forced to suffer in silence and shame. Based on a personal experience with an extremely severe case of postpartum depression, anxiety and psychosis, Nevada-based nonprofit executive, Auburn Harrison, paints a heartbreaking and harrowing picture of why our society's silence on the topic is hurting mothers. Auburn Harrison serves as a nonprofit executive director for nonprofit dropout prevention program for at-risk youth, Communities In Schools of Western Nevada. Her organization provides basic needs and case management to local students living in poverty, including wraparound student support services such as mentoring, tutoring and resources to help students stay in school, graduate and achieve life success. Auburn has been involved in the Northern Nevada non-profit and philanthropic and nonprofit community for over a decade. Auburn spent five years as an on-air television reporter at at KOLO 8 News Now, and five more years as an enlisted journalist in the US Navy. She holds a master's degree in Writing from University of Nevada, Reno. In 2019, Auburn was named one of the Top Twenty Young Professionals Under 40 by the Reno Tahoe Young Professionals Network. Auburn lives in Reno with her husband and three little boys. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx"
BY KIRA M. NEWMAN | AUGUST 17, 2016
"Mothers-to-be don’t spend their entire 40 weeks of pregnancy glowing radiantly; there are also midnight worries, endless shopping lists, and swollen feet. Somewhere around 18 percent of women are depressed during pregnancy, and 21 percent have serious anxiety.
Research is starting to suggest that mindfulness could help. Not only does cultivating moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts and surroundings seem to help pregnant women keep their stress down and their spirits up—benefits that are well-documented among other groups of people—it may also lead to healthier newborns with fewer developmental problems down the line.
The research is still in its infancy (pun intended), but researchers are hopeful that this low-cost, accessible, and positive practice could have transformational effects. Here are four benefits for pregnant women.
1. Mindfulness reduces stress
Jen, an entrepreneur friend of mine who recently had her first child, was put on bed rest and couldn’t even exercise to keep her stress down. “I had so much anxiety,” she recalls. “Meditation really helped me stay calm and sane.”
She isn’t alone. In a small pilot study in 2008, 31 women in the second half of their pregnancy participated in an eight-week mindfulness program called Mindful Motherhood, which included breathing meditation, body scan meditation, and hatha yoga. In two hours of class per week, participants also learned how to cultivate attention and awareness, particularly in relation to aspects of their pregnancy: the feeling of their belly, the aches and pains, and their anxiety about labor.
Compared with women waiting to enter the program, participants saw reductions in their reports of anxiety and negative feelings like distress, hostility, and shame. These were all women who had sought therapy or counseling for mood issues in the past, but the program seemed to be helping them avoid similar difficulties during a chaotic and transformative time of their lives.
A 2012 study of another eight-week mindfulness program found similar reductions in depression, stress, and anxiety compared with a control group, though only 19 pregnant women participated. In interviews, participants talked about learning to stop struggling and accept things as they are; they remembered to stop and breathe, and then take conscious action rather than acting out of anger or frustration.
“I’ve learned to take a step back and just breathe and think about what I’m going to say before I open my mouth,” one participant said.
These stress-busting and mood-lifting effects mirror those found in mindfulness programs for the general public, but can mindfulness help with the specific anxieties and fears that go along with pregnancy? Many pregnant women have a loop of worries that easily gets triggered: Will my baby be healthy? I’m scared of labor. Something doesn’t feel right—do I need to go to the doctor?
A 2014 study looked specifically at these feelings, called pregnancy anxiety. Forty-seven pregnant women in their first or second trimesters, who had particularly high stress or pregnancy anxiety, took a mindfulness class at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. For six weeks, they learned how to work with pain, negative emotions, and difficult social situations. Compared with a control group who read a pregnancy book, participants who took the class saw bigger decreases in their reports of pregnancy anxiety during the duration of the experiment.
Mindfulness, perhaps, gave them the tools to navigate complex emotions that wouldn’t budge, even in the face of the most reassuring reading material.
“It is inspiring to witness a mother with extreme fear of childbirth cancel an elective caesarian because she now feels confident enough in her own strength to go through the birthing process,” said one mindfulness teacher. “It is humbling to hear how the couple whose first baby died during labour were able to stay present during the birth of their second, observing their fear without getting lost in it.”
2. Mindfulness boosts positive feelings
Not all mindfulness involves meditation; you can also become more mindful by noticing the way moods and bodily sensations fluctuate throughout the day. This type of mindfulness can counter our tendency to be “mindless,” when we assume things will be the way we expect them to be—the way they were in the past—and we don’t notice new experiences. For example, pregnant women might expect pregnancy to be exhausting and painful, so they pay less attention to the happy and peaceful moments.
In a 2016 study, a small group of Israeli women in their second and third trimesters received a half-hour training in this type of mindfulness. Then, for two weeks, they wrote diary entries twice daily about how they felt physically and mentally, a way of helping them realize how much things change.
Compared with groups of women who simply read about other women’s positive and negative experiences during pregnancy, or did nothing specific at all, women in the mindfulness group saw greater increases in their reports of well-being and positive feelings like enthusiasm and determination across the duration of the exercise. Also, the more mindful they were after the experiment (as measured by questionnaire), the higher their well-being, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and positive feelings one month after the birth—a time when women need all the resources they can get.
Nurse-midwife Nancy Bardacke developed the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) program after training in and teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a widely researched program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. MBCP takes principles from MBSR and applies them to pregnancy, teaching mindfulness practices alongside insights about labor and breastfeeding. It includes three hours of class per week for nine weeks, as well as a daylong silent retreat.
In a small 2010 pilot study, 27 women in their third trimester of pregnancy participated in the MBCP program with their partners. In addition to improvements in pregnancy anxiety and stress, participants also reported experiencing stronger and more frequent positive feelings—such as enjoyment, gratitude, and hope—after the program.
“I definitely am aware of trying to be in the moment and that each moment, good or bad, will pass,” said one participant. “When I got really worried about the birth, I would just breathe to stop my mind from going all sorts of bad places.”
3. Mindfulness may help prevent premature birth
Among pregnant women’s worries, the possibility of a premature birth looms large. “Preemies” (babies born before 37 weeks) are at risk of breathing problems, vision and hearing issues, and developmental delays. And mothers of preemies have high rates of anxiety, depression, and stress, which often go unacknowledged in the face of the baby’s needs.
Here, too, mindfulness may have a role to play. In a 2005 study of 335 pregnant women in Bangalore, India, half were assigned to practice yoga and meditation while the other half walked for an hour per day, starting in their second trimester and continuing until delivery. The yoga group, who took yoga classes for a week and then practiced at home, had fewer premature births and fewer babies with low birthweight.
Another indicator of newborn health is the Apgar score, usually measured minutes after birth, which takes into account the newborn’s complexion, pulse, reflexes, activity level, and respiration. In the 2016 Israeli study mentioned above, women’s reported levels of mindfulness after the experiment were linked to their babies’ Apgar scores, even after controlling for socioeconomic status.
One 2011 study found that a mindfulness program reduced premature births, but not birthweight or Apgar scores. Here, a group of 199 second-trimester pregnant women in Northern Thailand either got typical prenatal care or participated in a mindfulness program. Two hours a week for five weeks, the mindfulness group learned different meditations and how to cultivate awareness and acceptance of their thoughts and emotions. During and afterward, they were encouraged to meditate for over an hour daily across several different sessions. In the end, only six percent of women in the meditation group delivered their babies prematurely, compared with 16 percent in the care-as-usual group.
Could mindfulness help reduce premature births in women who are most at risk for them, including low-income and older women? That’s a question for future research to address."
By: American Pregnancy Association
"Loving your body image before pregnancy can help you get through the physical and emotional changes during pregnancy. Having a positive body image of yourself is not about what you look like, but how you feel about yourself. This is crucial in pregnancy since there will be body changes that you cannot control. It is also helpful to understand why your body is going through these changes.
According to Ann Douglas, author of The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby, “A woman who feels good about herself will celebrate the changes that her body experiences during pregnancy, look forward to the challenge of giving birth, and willingly accept the physical and emotional changes of the postpartum period.”
Loving Your Body When You Are Pregnant:
Knowing that your body’s changes are essential to your developing baby is reason enough to embrace these changes!
Understanding what your body is doing for your baby:
As soon as your egg is fertilized and implanted in your uterus, your body begins to go through changes. These changes are a result of your baby’s growth and development. Your baby has a fetal life-support system that consists of the placenta, umbilical cord, and amniotic sac. The placenta produces hormones that are necessary to support a healthy pregnancy and baby.
These hormones help prepare your breasts for lactation and are responsible for many changes in your body. You will have an increase in blood circulation that is needed to support the placenta. This increase in blood is responsible for that wonderful “pregnancy glow” that you may have.
Your metabolism will increase, so you may have food cravings and the desire to eat more. Your body is requiring more nutrients to feed both you and your baby. Your uterus will enlarge and the amniotic sac will be filled with amniotic fluid. The amniotic fluid is there to protect your baby from any bumps or falls.
Here are a few things you can do to love your body image during pregnancy:
Exercise during pregnancy can help you feel fit, strong, and sexy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women are encouraged to exercise at least 30 minutes a day throughout pregnancy, unless your health care provider instructs differently.
Before starting any exercise program, ALWAYS check with your health care provider. For more information on exercise throughout pregnancy, check out the Nutrition & Exercise section.
Treat yourself to a body massage or a makeover. Go shopping, take a warm bubble bath, or go for a walk outside. Focus on activities that make you feel healthy, and make the most of these wonderful 9 months!"
By: Rubin Khoddam Ph.D. | January 23, 2022
"Are you looking for some new techniques to strengthen your relationship? If you’re interested in integrative behavioral couples therapy (IBCT) but don’t seem to be able to fit it into your busy schedule, many couples are utilizing teletherapy as a simpler way to make time for their relationship. Scheduling a teletherapy session with an experienced therapist is convenient and can help you work through relationship issues, but why wait? Here are five tips to get started today.
1. Express Appreciation
Understanding what makes your partner feel the most appreciated is a step in the right direction. Over time, we may stop expressing appreciation in our relationships because what was once novel has become routine. Maybe resentments have built up over the years, or we assume our significant other already knows how we feel about them. But when we notice and appreciate the little things, people often go out of their way to be even more thoughtful. This doesn’t require big gestures, although it can. Often, simply acknowledging what other people do for us is enough to make any relationship warmer. In fact, I often encourage couples to end the day by listing at least three things they are grateful for from that day about their partner or even about the day itself. Knowing that you will have to express your appreciation for things at the end of the night will make you more mindful of things to appreciate during the day.
2. Practice Reflective Listening
Practice might not ever make perfect, but it sure helps. It’s common for people to mistakenly believe that if they withhold approval or affection, their partner will change in the ways they want them to. While this might cause your partner to change, it probably won’t be in ways you like. Practicing reflective listening is one of the best techniques to improve communication in your relationship. So what does it mean?
This is something that a skilled couples therapist can walk you through during your session, but essentially it means that you listen to what your partner says and then repeat it back to them in your own words. You can try a simple reflection where you basically repeat back what’s been said, perhaps paraphrasing a little or you can try a complex reflection where you might infer a feeling or an experience based on what was said. This accomplishes two things. It validates what they’ve said because they know they’ve really been heard and it also clarifies any confusion. Instead of waiting for our turn to speak, we’re actively listening to what is being said and trying to understand what they’re telling us.
3. Schedule Important Conversations
On a related topic, there are some conversations that are tough to have no matter how skilled we are at communicating. So, when it comes to sensitive issues, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss them. I call these “relationship business meetings.” For example, maybe your partner wants to have a baby but you’re not sure if it’s a good time for you to start a family, or if you even want children. This is a situation that could quickly escalate into an argument, particularly if the topic comes up in a moment when you already feel stressed out about work or money or any number of other things.
Instead, consider setting aside a weekly meeting for an hour to explore the idea or any other hot-topic relationship issues. Choose a time when you both have the mental and emotional bandwidth to be fully present, and keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to find an answer at this time. The intent is to simply get the conversation started when you’re both in a calm and receptive state of mind—maybe even over brunch. You can always schedule a follow-up for later on, which will give you time to consider things in more depth.
By setting aside a weekly time to meet, you consolidate arguments into a single episode rather than have them bleed into the relationship throughout the week. It also allows time and space for each partner to reflect on their experience and opinions, and to come to the conversation more thoughtful and respectful of their needs and their partner's.
If you’re still finding it difficult to find your way through an issue, bring it to your teletherapy session. Your couples therapist will be able to offer you a fresh perspective and some useful insights into your current dynamic."
Pregnancy Yoga & Pilates Fusion Class | 1st, 2nd, 3rd Trimester (Pregnancy Yoga + Pregnancy Pilates)
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Written by Sharon Martin, LCSW on March 19, 2020
"Stress is an inevitable part of life. We all feel overwhelmed, confused, and anxious at times. And there are many effective and healthy ways to cope with stress, including releasing physical tension (such as through exercise or a hot bath) and reducing obsessive worries and negative thoughts.
Using affirmations is one way to change our thoughts and feelings. They can help us focus on how we want to feel and on our ability to cope.
However, if affirmations are going to work, they need to be realistic and authentic. Some positive affirmations are really corny and unbelievable (like, I am full of peace and joy). Telling yourself that you're full of peace and joy when you're actually full of tension and worry, probably isnt going to feel true or helpful. Instead, try to acknowledge your situation and feelings (that you feel stressed and anxious) and focus on how you want to cope — what you want to think, feel, and do in response.
Below are some affirmations that you may find helpful during times of stress and uncertainty. What feels true and right and helpful, certainly varies from person to person. So, use these as ideas to create your own affirmations or mantras. For example, you can make them more specific by stating something in particular that you're grateful for or a particular coping strategy that you will use.
Affirmations for stress and anxiety
By: Pregnancy and Postpartum TV | August 12, 2021
By Fiona Tapp
"Keep your holiday party going strong this season with these festive Christmas games for preschoolers, big kids, tweens, and teens—and parents, too!
Whether you throw your own Christmas party for your kids and their friends or you're just expecting to attend more than a few, having a collection of fun Christmas party games in mind will keep everyone entertained.
Mix it up with games for all ages, with some that encourage movement, require music, help them all let off some steam and then calm down and cool off before they go home.
Try these 10 Christmas games at your next kid's party, which require minimal setup, and you'll be crowned the party planner of the year!
1. Stack The Gifts
Best for: All ages
All you need is a collection of empty boxes wrapped up to look like gifts and some enthusiastic kids. Challenge individuals or teams to stack their tower of gifts the highest without any of them falling over. To increase the pressure you can introduce a time limit of 60 seconds.
2. Dress-Up Relay
Best for: Preschool and Elementary age kids
This Christmas party game will help kids use up a lot of energy in a fast-paced dress up race.
Each child will start by lining up in front of a pile of winter clothes. They will then be challenged to dress completely in a hat, mittens, snow pants, and coat before having to unwrap a candy with their hands in mittens. Finally, they have to return to the start and take everything back off, replacing it in a neat pile again. It's great practice for those busy mornings once school starts back again!
3. Candy Cane Hunt
Best for: Elementary age kids and up
Hide candy canes around the house and have children hunt them. They can then hang them on the Christmas tree and cash them in for a small prize.
4. Snowball Race
Best for: Elementary age kids and upKids are given a styrofoam or ping pong ball and a drinking straw and have to blow their "snowball" across the finishing line before their friends.
5. Snow Shovel Race
Best for: Ages 7 and up
You'll need some bowls and cotton balls to challenge kids to a snow shovel race but not the kind you're thinking of. To "shovel the snow" they will need to balance cotton balls on a spoon and transfer them into the bowls before their friends beat them (it's harder than you think!)"
By: Science Insider | October 17, 2021
"High-risk obstetricians Laura Riley and Dena Goffman debunk 16 postpartum myths. They talk about how breastfeeding will not prevent pregnancy, why baby bumps don't disappear right after you give birth, and how breastfeeding doesn't always come naturally. They also debunk the myth that you'll need to keep having C-sections if you've previously had one.
Riley is the chair of OB-GYN at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine. She specializes in maternal fetal medicine. You can learn more about her work here: https://weillcornell.org/laura-e-rile...
Goffman is the chief of obstetrics at NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia University. She is also a maternal fetal medicine specialist. You can learn more about her work here: https://www.columbiaobgyn.org/profile..."
By Jean Lee | November 21, 2021
"Shantell Jones gave birth in an ambulance parked on the side of a Connecticut highway. Even though she lived six blocks away from a hospital, the emergency vehicle had to drive to another one about 30 minutes away.
The closer medical center, Windham Hospital, discontinued labor and delivery services last year and is working to permanently cease childbirth services after “years of declining births and recruitment challenges,” its operator, Hartford HealthCare, has said.
But medical and public health experts say the step could potentially put pregnant women at risk if they don't have immediate access to medical attention. Losing obstetrics services, they said, could be associated with increased preterm births, emergency room births and out-of-hospital births without resources nearby, like Jones' childbirth experience.
The dilemma Jones faced is one that thousands of other pregnant women living in rural communities without obstetrics units nearby are encountering as hospitals cut back or close services to reduce costs. Nationwide, 53 rural counties lost obstetrics care from 2014 through 2018, according to a 2020 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which also found that out of 1,976 rural counties in the country, 1,045 never had hospitals with obstetrics services to begin with.
The problem is particularly acute in communities of color, like Windham in northeastern Connecticut, where the population is 41 percent Latino, while the statewide Latino population is only 16.9 percent, according to the U.S Census Bureau. The community is 6.2 percent Black. Local activists say they fear low-income residents will bear the brunt of the hospital’s decision because Windham has a 24.6 percent poverty rate compared to 10 percent statewide, according to the census.
The night Jones delivered her son, her mother, Michelle Jones, had called 911 because Jones was going into labor a few weeks early, and after her water broke they knew the baby was coming soon. Both expected the ambulance to drive the short distance to Windham Hospital, where Jones received her prenatal care.
But the ambulance attendant was told Windham wasn't taking labor and delivery patients and was referring people to Backus Hospital in Norwich, Jones said.
In the ambulance, she was without her mother, who was asked to follow in her car.
“I was anxious and scared and traumatized,” Jones said."
By Sarah Griffiths | April 24, 2019
"Giving birth can be one of the most painful experiences in a woman’s life, yet the long-term effects that trauma can have on millions of new mothers are still largely ignored.
It’s 03:00. My pillow is soaked with cold sweat, my body tense and shaking after waking from the same nightmare that haunts me every night. I know I’m safe in bed – that’s a fact. My life is no longer at risk, but I can’t stop replaying the terrifying scene that replayed in my head as I slept, so I remain alert, listening for any sound in the dark.
This is one of the ways I experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events, which are often relived through flashbacks and nightmares. The condition, formerly known as “shellshock”, first came to prominence when men returned from the trenches of World War One having witnessed unimaginable horrors. More than 100 years after the guns of that conflict fell silent, PTSD is still predominantly associated with war and as something largely experienced by men.
But millions of women worldwide develop PTSD not only from fighting on a foreign battlefield – but also from struggling to give birth, as I did. And the symptoms tend to be similar for people no matter the trauma they experienced.
“Women with trauma may feel fear, helplessness or horror about their experience and suffer recurrent, overwhelming memories, flashbacks, thoughts and nightmares about the birth, feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event, and avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma, which can include talking about it," says Patrick O’Brien, a maternal mental health expert at University College Hospital and spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK.
Despite these potentially debilitating effects, postnatal PTSD was only formally recognised in the 1990s when the American Psychiatry Association changed its description of what constitutes a traumatic event. The association originally considered PTSD to be “something outside the range of usual human experience”, but then changed the definition to include an event where a person “witnessed or confronted serious physical threat or injury to themselves or others and in which the person responded with feelings of fear, helplessness or horror”.
This effectively implied that before this change, childbirth was deemed too common to be highly traumatic – despite the life-changing injuries, and sometimes deaths, women can suffer as they bring children into the world. According to the World Health Organization, 803 women die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth every day.
There are few official figures for how many women suffer from postnatal PTSD, and because of the continued lack of recognition of the condition in mothers, it is difficult to say how common the condition really is. Some studies that have attempted to quantify the problem estimate that 4% of births lead to the condition. One study from 2003 found that around a third of mothers who experience a “traumatic delivery”, defined as involving complications, the use of instruments to assist delivery or near death, go on to develop PTSD.
With 130 million babies born around the world every year, that means that a staggering number of women may be trying to cope with the disorder with little or no recognition.
And postnatal PTSD might not only be a problem for mothers. Some research has found evidence that fathers can suffer it too after witnessing their partner go through a traumatic birth.
Regardless of the exact numbers, for those who go through these experiences, there can be a long-lasting impact on their lives. And the symptoms manifest themselves in many different ways.
"I regularly get vivid images of the birth in my head,” says Leonnie Downes, a mother from Lancashire, UK, who developed PTSD after fearing she was going to die when she developed sepsis in labour. “I constantly feel under threat, like I'm in a heightened awareness.”
Lucy Webber, another woman who developed PTSD after giving birth to her son in 2016, says she developed obsessive behaviours and become extremely anxious. “I’m not able to let my baby out of my sight or let anyone touch him,” she says. “I have intrusive thought of bad things happening to all my loved ones.”
Not all women who have difficult births will develop postnatal PTSD. According to Elizabeth Ford of Queen Mary University of London and Susan Ayers of the University of Sussex, it has a lot to do with a woman’s perception of what they went through.
"Women who feel lack of control during birth or who have poor care and support are more at risk of developing PTSD,” the researchers write.
The stories from women who have developed PTSD after giving birth seem to reflect this.
Stephanie, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, says she was poorly cared for during labour and midwives displayed a lack of empathy and compassion. A particularly difficult labour saw her being physically held down by staff as her son was delivered. “He was born completely blue and taken away to be resuscitated and I was given no information on his condition for hours.”
By Stephanie Collier, MD, MPH, Contributor
"Pregnancy is an exciting time. You will soon become a parent to an adorable, tiny human. You may expect to experience the rollercoaster of emotions during pregnancy, or emotions may catch you off guard. Some women feel joy at every flutter or kick, marveling at their changing bodies. For other women, pregnancy is hard, giving no reprieve as it brings severe fatigue, mood changes, and constant worries. You may notice that with every passing month, your thoughts are spiraling out of control, affecting your performance at work and your relationships at home. But how do you manage your anxiety, and should you treat it?
What causes anxiety during pregnancy?
Worries during pregnancy are universal. Hormonal changes of pregnancy, prior heartbreaking miscarriages, and sleep difficulties may all contribute to anxiety for mothers-to-be. You may worry about how a baby will affect your relationships with friends or family members, the health of your future child, the delivery experience, or the financial burden of an additional family member. All of these worries are completely normal. For humans, a certain amount of anxiety is protective; how else could we motivate ourselves to complete our work or run away from a bear?
What are the symptoms of anxiety disorders during pregnancy?
Although it’s normal to be worried about the health of your baby, in some cases this worry becomes debilitating and may require further attention. Thoughts about the health of the baby may become obsessive, even when doctors are reassuring. Worries may also appear as physical symptoms, such as a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, or panic attacks. If this is the first time you experience a high level of anxiety, this may be frightening in itself. When anxiety starts to interfere with your day-to-day functioning, relationships, or job performance, it may be classified as an anxiety disorder — if your doctor picks up on it.
Anxiety can occur at any time during pregnancy, or it may first appear after delivery (perinatal anxiety is the term used for anxiety during pregnancy and after delivery). The rates of generalized anxiety disorder appear to be highest in the first trimester, likely due to hormonal changes. The most common symptoms of anxiety include constant worrying, restlessness, muscle tension, irritability, feeling dread, an inability to concentrate, and difficulties falling asleep due to worries. Some women also experience symptoms as a result of other anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unfortunately, two of the most common mental health screening tools in pregnancy (the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Screen and Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item Scale) are not great at detecting anxiety in pregnancy. Although underdiagnosed, anxiety disorders during pregnancy and in the postpartum period are common, and may affect up to one in five women. Many women suffer in silence.
What are the effects of untreated anxiety on the fetus?
When thinking about management of anxiety, it is important to consider both the risks of treatment as well as the harms of untreated anxiety. Although less studied than depression, research suggests that anxiety may negatively affect both the mother and the fetus. Anxiety increases the risk for preterm birth, low birthweight, earlier gestational age, and a smaller head circumference (which is related to brain size).
What are some treatments for anxiety during pregnancy?
Fortunately, there are many treatments that can reduce anxiety during pregnancy and help you feel better. For many women, anti-anxiety medication is not an option during pregnancy, as there is little information on the safety of such medication on the fetus. Some women who had previously taken medications for anxiety may wish to discontinue medications during pregnancy for personal reasons.
Therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) demonstrate promise in the peripartum period (the period shortly before, during, and after giving birth). CBT focuses on challenging maladaptive thoughts, emotions, and actions, and it uses anxiety management strategies such as diaphragmatic breathing (adapted to pregnancy).
If your anxiety is severe, medications may be an option for you. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed for depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after delivery. It does not appear that SSRIs are associated with an increased risk of major congenital malformations. However, SSRIs may be associated with transient neonatal symptoms such as jitteriness, tremor, crying, and trouble feeding, which resolve on their own in a few days.
The use of benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan) and alprazolam (Xanax) during pregnancy has long been a controversial topic. Although older studies showed an association between their use and an increased risk for cleft lip and palate, a more recent study looking at benzodiazepine use during pregnancy did not show this link when these medications were used alone (although there may be an increased risk when combined with antidepressants)."
By: Cindy & James Mindful Relaxation
"Meditation For Pregnancy is a comforting and relaxing meditation that can be done at any time but works best before sleep. It's a super-effective way to reduce anxiety and connect with your baby."
By: Kaiser Permanente | 2021
"Time is valuable for any busy mom. There never seems to be enough of it. And when you think about your priorities, making time for self-care probably falls near the bottom of your list —below work, kids, home, and family.
But if you don’t take time for yourself, you could be doing more harm than good. Stress, exhaustion, burnout, and even illness can take more of a toll when you aren’t getting what you need. So whether you carve out a few minutes for yourself, or a whole day, here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Focus on the physical
2. Give your brain a boost
3. Pamper yourself
4. Find time for your friends
5. Take a leap
Do something big that you’ve never done before, like:
6. Hone your skills
7. Get silly
Source: WebMD Medical Reference | Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 05, 2021
"What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are plant abstracts made by steaming or pressing different parts of a plant to capture the compounds that produce fragrance. It can take several pounds of a plant to produce just one bottle of essential oils.
When evaluating essential oils' effectiveness, research is promising, but the human clinical trials are mixed. Some studies show an improvement for people, while others show no improvement at all.
The most common way essential oils are used during pregnancy is to help treat anxiety, aches, and lack of focus. There are many varieties of oils to choose from. Finding a high-grade quality variety is recommended. It’s also helpful to consult with your doctor before you start using essential oils while pregnant.
Is It Safe to Use Essential Oils While Pregnant?
Essential oils come in different scents and qualities. Certain varieties are safe to use while pregnant while others should be avoided.
Essential oils that are good to use while pregnant:
How to Use Essential Oils Safely
If a doctor or midwife recommends essential oils to help you during pregnancy, use them carefully. A few good tips to keep in mind include:
Safety Risks of Using Essential Oils While Pregnant
Some people may experience an allergic reaction or skin irritation after using essential oils. You're more likely to have a bad reaction if you have atopic dermatitis or a history of reactions to topical products.
Some essential oils that may carry a higher risk of causing an allergic or skin irritation include:
By Melissa Willets | Updated August 22, 2021
"The term rainbow baby may not be familiar to people who haven't experienced a loss. But to those of us who have, it has a very deep and even life-changing significance.
So what is a rainbow baby? It's "a baby born after a miscarriage, stillborn, or neonatal death," says Jennifer Kulp-Makarov, M.D., FACOG. "It's called a rainbow baby because it's like a rainbow after a storm: something beautiful after something scary and dark."
She adds, "It's an extremely emotional and devastating experience to lose a pregnancy [or baby]. To create a life or bring a baby into the world after such a loss is amazing like a miracle for these parents."
I'm currently seven months pregnant with a rainbow baby, and indeed, I feel like I'm walking around with a miracle in my belly. There was a time when I never thought I could feel hopeful again. Just last year, we lost our beloved baby Cara at 23 weeks of pregnancy. The days, weeks, and months after she became our angel baby were the darkest of my life. But soon a dim hope flickered inside my heart, and eventually ignited a flame, that became my desire to try again, in part to honor Cara, and to find meaning in her loss.
Rainbow Babies Can Honor an Angel Baby
Moline Prak Pandiyan, a previous ambassador for March for Babies, March of Dimes Eastern North Carolina, knows this feeling well. She lost her son Niko when he was five months old due to complications related to his premature birth. "Although Niko lost his fight, his spirit lives on, and he continues to inspire many," she explains. Not only is this mama involved in fighting prematurity, but she was also inspired to conceive a rainbow baby.
Not that she previously knew the meaning of the term "rainbow baby." "I remember the feeling that I had when I first heard [it]," says Pandiyan. "It was perfect. I so much wanted to make sure that Niko wasn't forgotten, and the term so eloquently acknowledges the babies who we've lost, while also celebrating the joy of our babies who do survive."
Prak Pandiyan is now a proud mom of a little girl, her rainbow, who truly informs her parenting philosophy. "My husband and I always wondered what life would have been like if our son could be discharged and come home with us," she says. "When we welcomed our rainbow baby into this world, our perspective as parents shifted. Whenever things get hard—feeding challenges, sleeping challenges, mild illnesses—we always make it a point to step back and remember that things could be so much worse."
Parenting a Rainbow Baby May Feel Different
Mama Stephanie Sherrill Huerta, who has one daughter, is also expecting a rainbow baby, via adoption, after several miscarriages and failed adoption attempts. She too acknowledges that parenting her rainbow baby will be different, telling Parents.com, "We will love him a little differently than our daughter because we went through so much grief and pain before meeting him. He will truly be the light at the end of the tunnel, the pot of gold under the rainbow, and the rainbow after our storm."
That same spirit has encouraged me to enjoy my current pregnancy more than before. Morning sickness and heartburn can't take away my gratitude for the chance to carry a healthy baby.
Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins, M.D., MSc, OB-GYN at CareMount Medical says this is normal. "For parents who have experienced the loss of a child, whether that loss occurs before or after birth, the life adjustments associated with pregnancy are accompanied with an acute sense of gratitude even when they are uncomfortable," she notes. "And although most of us have the great fortune of being wanted babies, parents tend to have a special, and in many cases incredibly sharp, sense of being blessed when they are expecting and then giving birth to a baby that follows loss."
By Jessica Zucker, Ph.D. | April 22, 2021
"Elisha M., 31, a clinical research coordinator for oncology clinical trials living in New Jersey, can hardly put into words the joy she felt the moment she held her rainbow baby in her arms. Having previously experienced a pregnancy loss, she says she felt "so grateful and excited" to finally have her baby earthside, healthy and thriving.
But her son was also fussy and hard to soothe, and before the two were discharged from the hospital, Elisha found herself appreciably overwhelmed and crying nonstop. "By the end of the first week with him, I knew the emotions I was having were more than just the 'baby blues,' because I felt like I wanted to give up. I didn't want to be a parent anymore," Elisha tells me. "I loved him so much, but I also wanted out."
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research, one in eight experience symptoms of postpartum depression (though it's believed the rate is even higher, given the lack of reporting, education, and support resources available to postpartum women). In a country saddled with mental health care and health insurance crises—to say nothing of the pervasive systemic racism within the healthcare system that makes support even more unattainable for Black and brown postpartum people—treatment can be prohibitively expensive, if not completely out of reach.
"By the time I spoke to someone about the way I was feeling, counseling was pretty much off the table for me," Elisha says. "I started to have thoughts of hurting myself." Elisha says she took four to five months off from work so that she could work on herself and be mentally present, and recalls her insurance being billed nearly $1,000 for a single visit to simply speak to a doctor.
"We couldn't necessarily afford for me to be out of work, but my husband really encouraged me to do whatever it was that I felt like I needed and he would figure out everything else," she explains. "It did set us back financially for some time, which I think added another strain on our relationship in addition to the strain postpartum depression was already having on us as a couple."
I wanted to give up. I didn't want to be a parent anymore.
On average, mental health providers practicing in major U.S. cities charge anywhere between $75 to $150 per 45-minute session, though rates in places like New York City, for example, can be upwards of $300 per session. And while costs of certain postpartum depression and anxiety medications can vary widely and depend on insurance coverage, the recent $34,000 price tag for a postpartum depression one-time infusion drug that's said to provide "fast relief" highlights just how expensive the cost of postpartum depression can be—and how unattainable it is for those who are not affluent. In 2017 alone, the cost of maternal depression was an astounding $14.2 billion—an average of $32,000 per mom.
Arden Cartrett, 28, who works in real estate and recently started a miscarriage doula business, says she paid anywhere from $150 to $200 per session with a mental health professional after realizing she was struggling with postpartum depression.
"When my son turned exactly 6 months old, I felt a shift," Cartrett tells me. "I had struggled with anxiety, feeling alone, and worrying about the pandemic, and honestly wasn't sure what would be considered normal or abnormal. Physically and mentally, I felt foggy and was having a really hard time keeping up with life."
Still, due to the high cost of care, Cartrett says she spaced out her therapy sessions—to the detriment of her mental health.
"I do have insurance, but it's a high deductible plan, which means I basically pay out-of-pocket expenses until I reach a certain amount (which is high), so I am having to pay hundreds out of pocket per session which unfortunately limits how often I can use that resource," she explains. "However, medication-wise, I'm on a common medication that is reasonably priced."
Of course, the cost of postpartum depression isn't just limited to a person's finances, nor does it only occur when a person experiences a live birth. In my book I Had a Miscarriage: A Memoir, a Movement, I outline the many costs of postpartum depression that exist with or without a baby in your arms—and those costs are physical, mental, emotional, and financial.
Kayte de la Fuente, 41, a California administrative assistant going to school to become a preschool teacher, says she and her husband have spent upwards of $100,000 between postpartum depression treatment, acupuncture, blood tests, medications, chiropractor visits, and IUI and IVF treatments. She has experienced three pregnancy losses in the last five years.
How does one continue to power through postpartum depression and the various ways it affects a life...while also managing the financial toll?
"It wasn't until we had done more rounds of IUI and having them not work that I really started to recognize the depression that I was in because of that [initial] miscarriage and all of the unsuccessful treatments," de la Fuente tells me. She says that she sought out "unconventional treatments" as well, including a 12-week program provided by a friend of a friend that focuses on finding your inner child, and an infertility support group as well. The program cost $1,200 and the group cost $200 for eight-week sessions—none of which was covered by insurance.
"Of course, because you're looking at all of the bills and you're trying to figure out what your next steps are because you already have all of this financial burden," she says. "Do you keep going?" How does one continue to power through postpartum depression and the various ways it affects a life—symptoms such as mood swings, sadness, anxiety, guilt, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, irritability, restlessness, reduced concentration, feeling overwhelmed, trouble sleeping, or all of the above—while also managing the financial toll?
It's a question anyone who identifies as a parent and who is struggling, whether they've had a live birth or not, has to ask themselves: How do I keep going? Can I keep going? How do I find a way to keep going?"
By Loren Kleinman | May 12, 2021
"The day Lily was born, my husband, Joe, took pictures, murmured soft words, and held her every moment he could. "I want to stay home with her for her first year," he said. "I read it's important for their development."
Luckily, he was able to as he was honorably discharged from the Navy. But despite my three-month maternity leave, I wanted to go back to work.
But when we returned home from the hospital, I unraveled. No time to shower, eat, or pay a bill. Our lives revolved around Lily. Everything I imagined about motherhood exploded. Dreams of gardening with my daughter in a Snugli on my chest were replaced with her unrelenting cries and endless diaper changes.
Yet to Joe, she was just a baby. "What did you think having a baby would be like?" he asked.
"Not like this," I snapped, taking off my spit-up covered shirt and replacing it with a clean one.
It wasn't just the dirty shirt. I had thoughts of hurting myself and my baby, an alarming desire to drive us both off the road. I hated myself for these thoughts, but I hated her more. I hated that she never slept, and resented that I couldn't, either. I hated breastfeeding, which was not magical as I'd pictured, but painful and lonely.
I missed our date nights, coming and going as I pleased, and clean clothes.
Darkness settled over me, unlike any depression I'd experienced. I began experimenting with cutting myself just to feel something other than exhaustion, spending long minutes in the bathroom, my only escape. With each cut came relief from the burden of this new, agonizing life.
"You were in there a long time," Joe teased me.
Low spirited, I replied, "I wish I never had to come out."
He reached out to console me and saw the cuts on my arm. I didn't hide them. I didn't care. But Joe called his therapist, who told him about a clinic for women with postpartum depression.
"He doesn't even know me," I argued.
"You're going," a frazzled Joe said. "Today."
My First Dose of Postpartum Depression Treatment
We arrived to find a room filled with infants, dads, and moms, many of the latter red-faced and crying, while their husbands stood by, holding babies. I was amazed to see so many men like my husband, cradling their little ones, in solidarity with their wives, as the women went one by one to meet with a psychiatrist.
When it was my turn, I looked back at Joe and Lily. A concerned smile dusted his face. "We'll be right here when you're done."
During my intake, I asked flatly, "Will I ever love her?"
"This is a classic postpartum depression question. You will love her," the psychiatrist assured me. "But I have to ask, do you have any plans to kill yourself?"
Without hesitation, I said, "I want to drive off the road." Then I wept.
I wasn't allowed to drive until further notice, and if I didn't abide, the psychiatrist warned, "We'd have to consider hospitalization."
Joe ferried me to and from the clinic every day, no matter how many times he'd been up with Lily the night before. On weekends, Joe tended to me and to Lily, making sure we both ate and slept, as his parents flew out from Washington State to lend a hand, a relief to both of us.
For the first time, I felt some hope.
Every week, I attended weekly dialectical behavior therapy sessions (DBT), learning skills for coping with my anxiety and insomnia like radical acceptance and positive self-talk.
Things Only Got Worse
Then, one night, after Joe put Lily to bed, we sat on our back porch, me with my usual glass of wine, him with his Coke and ice.
"Are you OK?" he asked, as I stared, glassy-eyed, into the trees.
Before coming outside, I'd already washed down a handful of Tylenols, along with sedatives and a few glasses of wine.
"I can't live like this anymore." I paused. "Lily deserves a mom, not me."
Joe sighed and said, "I'm calling the clinic's emergency line."
The therapist on duty advised Joe to bring me to the hospital immediately, even though I protested. But I had no choice. I confessed my desire to kill myself, so I could go voluntarily or in an ambulance.
Joe stayed with me for nine hours in the emergency room, until there was a bed ready in the psychiatric unit. His parents watched Lily at home.
"Please don't let them take me away," I called out to Joe, as a nurse led me to the unit.
"I'll see you in the morning," Joe answered back. "You will be OK."
When he arrived the next day, I pleaded with him to get me out.
"Someone tried to kill themselves last night," I cried. "I don't belong here."
"Can you give it a chance?" he begged.
I sat back in my chair and folded my arms. I resented Joe for bringing me here. At the beginning of our relationship, I'd been the strong one, helping him through his own hardships. But Lily changed everything.
"I have to get back," he said. "Focus on getting better, not getting out."
When Joe leaned in to give me a kiss goodbye, I stopped him. "I want a divorce when this is over," I whispered.
He teared up and said, "You've said some of the meanest things anyone has ever said to me."
I felt no remorse. Before the baby, we never went to bed angry. Now, I loathed him for keeping me here. I was determined to punish him, and I did, lashing out constantly, but he kept visiting and taking my phone calls. He never stopped trying.
I was discharged after five days. Joe and I argued for the entire ride home. When we arrived at the house, I imploded: "I can't take this anymore!"
I threw chairs and baby toys, wailing, and punching the wall. Joe couldn't calm me, so he took Lily and his parents to the farthest part of the house.
The next morning, Joe gave me a choice: "You either go to your parents' house and take a break, or you go back to the hospital."
I chose the first option.
A few days later, Joe called me. "I told my therapist what happened. He called Child Protective Services," he said matter-of-factly.
"They're going to take Lily away?" I asked.
Shocked, I suddenly realized how much I wanted her."
By Sydney Daniello, Programs Intern at Mental Health America | June 01, 2020
"Routines have a bad reputation of being dull, boring ruts we fall into over time. But a lot of routines can actually be really helpful for maintaining both our physical and mental wellbeing. And now that many of our normal routines have been disrupted, it’s become more important than ever to establish routines to keep us healthy, happy and - well - sane.
I, for one have been having a tough time setting up and sticking to any routine other than waking up every morning and silently screaming into the void. So, I asked my coworkers here at MHA about what kinds of routines have been helpful to them for maintaining their wellbeing during these ~unprecedented times~
Here’s a list of what they said (summarized, not all direct quotes):
By: Lindsay Dolak | Editor at Aaptiv | August 6, 2020
"No matter how fit you were before and even during pregnancy, postpartum exercise presents a unique set of challenges. Your body is still healing from delivery, and with a newborn in the house, you might be feeling more tired than ever. But finding time to fit in fitness is amazing for both your body and mind—it can be just what you need to get back to feeling like your pre-pregnancy self. No, we’re not talking about “getting your body back.” We’re talking about a boost to your energy, self-confidence and physical strength. Plus, you’re bound to sleep better too. Do we have your attention now? Here, two trainers from Aaptiv—a fitness app offering trainer-led, music-driven audio workouts—break down why you should start a postnatal fitness routine, and how to do it.
Benefits of Postpartum Exercise
Postnatal exercise brings a host of positive benefits to your body, but also for your mood and stress levels. Fitness not only helps your body heal but also provides an outlet to recenter and focus on yourself—something that might feel a bit out of reach now that you’re caring for another tiny human. “Postpartum exercise gives moms back that feeling of being in control,” says Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham, an ACE-certified personal trainer and Fit For Birth pre- and post-natal corrective exercise specialist. “It’s a huge stress-reliever and also gives new moms something to really focus on for themselves.”
Aaptiv trainer and mom Jaime McFaden, an ACE-certified pre- and post-natal fitness specialist and health coach, agrees, adding that consistent exercise post-baby provides a huge boost in not only physical strength, but mental strength as well. “You just went through so many changes—things have shifted. Exercise helps you heal from the inside out,” she says.
In addition to the many mental and emotional benefits, postnatal fitness can lead to weight loss, improved strength (carrying around a baby all the time is no joke), better sleep and more balanced hormones—a must after nine months of ups and downs.
When to Start Postpartum Exercise
First things first: Don’t jump into a postpartum exercise routine without your doctor’s approval. Many doctors recommend waiting six to eight weeks after birth before starting trying any type of exercise, but it often varies. Some women may experience complications during pregnancy or labor that might set them back a few more weeks. For example, a mother who had a vaginal birth will likely have a different timeline than one who had a c-section. And others may even be able to work out sooner than six weeks.
According to McFaden, working out during pregnancy may help when it comes time to start exercising again. “Your body’s muscle memory will kick in and you’ll have an easier time getting back into it after birth,” she says. “You still want to give your body time to recover, though. Never push yourself too hard post-baby. Patience is key.”
No matter what, it’s crucial to work with your doctor to find out exactly when is right for you and your body. “Every mom is different and it’s important to pay attention to stresses the body may undergo post-pregnancy,” Cunningham says. “A doctor will be able to check for an indication of diastasis recti (the separation of the abdominals) and be able to recommend the appropriate physical work to heal that or any other side effects of childbirth.”
There’s no real reason to rush back into exercising early anyways. In fact, it can cause you more harm than good down the line. It might be hard for women used to high intensity workouts or long runs, but taking it slow is key.
When you’re ready, start by adding walking and low-impact bodyweight exercises at first. Aaptiv’s fourth trimester program meets new moms where they are and focuses on building back up to regular workouts. It covers core, strength training, outdoor walking and elliptical, and places special emphasis on healing the pelvic floor muscles and not aggravating a diastasis recti—both of which are crucial for new moms with recovering bodies. Don’t worry, you’ll gradually work your way back to sprints and burpees in no time.
Best Postpartum Workouts
Before you starting working out again, it’s important to temper your expectations. Your body is different now and you won’t immediately be as strong as you once were. Start with simple, functional exercises you can ultimately build on. To get you started, we asked McFaden and Cunningham to share some of their favorite postpartum exercises to work your entire body."
By Alex Arpaia and Dorie Chevlen | Updated May 3, 2021
"Mothers come in all shapes and sizes and ages and attitudes. Some moms run marathons, others run companies, and still others run around town, ferrying offspring from their violin lessons to tae kwon do classes to softball practice. Some still have a house full of kids; others are now empty nesters. But these mothers all have something in common: They have at least one person (be it a child, a co-parent, or an admirer) who owes them a great big thank-you, coupled with a thoughtful gift, for everything they do. Perhaps that person is you? If so, it’s time to get on it."