Medically reviewed by Lynn Starr, RNC-OB — Written by Shannon Conner on September 9, 2015
"Most moms-to-be spend a lot of time worrying about their developing baby. But remember, it’s just as important during the next nine months to tune in to someone else’s cues: your own.
Maybe you’re exceedingly tired. Or thirsty. Or hungry. Maybe you and your growing baby need some quiet time to connect.
Your doctor or midwife may say, “Listen to your body.” But for many of us, that’s followed by, “How?”
Meditation can help you listen to your voice, your body, that small heartbeat — and help you feel refreshed and a bit more focused.
What Is Meditation?
Think of meditation as some quiet time to breathe and connect, be aware of passing thoughts, and to clear the mind.
Some say it’s finding inner peace, learning to let go, and getting in touch with yourself through breath, and through mental focus.
For some of us, it can be as simple as deep, in-and-out breaths in the bathroom stall at work as you try to focus on you, your body, and the baby. Or, you can take a class or retreat to your own special place in the house with pillows, a mat, and total silence.
What Are the Benefits?
Some of the benefits of practicing meditation include:
Moms who have high levels of stress or anxiety during pregnancy are more likely to deliver their babies at preterm or low birth weights.
Birth outcomes like those are a pressing public health issue, especially in the United States. Here, the national rates of preterm birth and low birth weight are 13 and 8 percent, respectively. This is according to a report published in the journal Psychology & Health.
Prenatal stress can also impact fetal development. Studies have shown that it can even affect cognitive, emotional, and physical development in infancy and childhood. All the more reason to squeeze in some meditation time!"
"After the birth, there are oh-so-many ways your body will ache. We asked midwife Tracy Hydeman and other experienced parents for their soothing suggestions.
1. When you’re breastfeeding, massage your breasts to ward off mastitis. You can also use warm compresses or take a hot shower.
2. Get hydrated with natural electrolytes (which help regulate nerves and muscles) by mixing water, sea salt and freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice.
3. Soak your bottom in an Epsom salt bath at least two times a day. Add herbs like comfrey leaf and witch hazel to help tears heal and reduce inflammation.
4. Cabbage leaves are a “fantastic thing for engorged breasts,” says Hydeman. They cup the breasts naturally and relieve inflammation.
5. Eat a beef and barley stew—the beef is good for replenishing your iron, and the barley will help your milk come in.
6. If necessary, book an appointment to see a physiotherapist for pelvic-floor and diastasis recti physio ASAP.
7. That little peri bottle you got from your hospital nurse or midwife? It’s a new mom’s best friend when it comes to keeping things clean down there postpartum. (Any tearing or incisions will make it difficult to wipe after delivery.) Simply fill it with warm water and squirt to cleanse yourself after using the toilet or squirt while peeing to dilute the urine if you have any burning or discomfort.
8. Homemade “padsicles”
– Spritz sanitary pads with water or top with witch hazel. Many moms also swear by adding aloe vera gel and lavender oil.
– Fold up the pad and insert it into a zip-top bag or seal with plastic wrap. Freeze. Place on the perineum for cold comfort.
9. If you have a supportive partner or help at home, take advantage of that by embracing the “babymoon” period. Try to stay in bed for at least 72 hours after the birth.
10. Organize (or ask a friend or family member to organize) a meal train, which is a system in which people can sign up to bring you meals. Don’t be shy about mentioning any food preferences or allergies."
Written by Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD, CPT on February 5, 2020 — Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, R.D., L.D.
"When you’re feeling down, it can be tempting to turn to food to lift your spirits. However, the sugary, high calorie treats that many people resort to have negative consequences of their own.
Thus, you may wonder whether any healthy foods can improve your mood.
Recently, research on the relationship between nutrition and mental health has been emerging. Yet, it’s important to note that mood can be influenced by many factors, such as stress, environment, poor sleep, genetics, mood disorders, and nutritional deficiencies.
Therefore, it’s difficult to accurately determine whether food can raise your spirits.
Nonetheless, certain foods have been shown to improve overall brain health and certain types of mood disorders.
Here are 9 healthy foods that may boost your mood.
1. Fatty fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats that you must obtain through your diet because your body can’t produce them on its own.
Fatty fish like salmon and albacore tuna are rich in two types of omega-3s — docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) — that are linked to lower levels of depression.
Omega-3s contribute to the fluidity of your brain’s cell membrane and appear to play key roles in brain development and cell signaling.
While research is mixed, one review of clinical trials showed that in some studies, consuming omega-3’s in the form of fish oil lower depression scores.
Although there’s no standard dose, most experts agree that most adults should get at least 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day.
Given that a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon provides 2,260 mg of EPA and DHA, eating this fish a few times per week is a great way to get these fats into your diet.
Chocolate is rich in many mood-boosting compounds.
Its sugar may improve mood since it’s a quick source of fuel for your brain.
Furthermore, it may release a cascade of feel-good compounds, such as caffeine, theobromine, and N-acylethanolamine — a substance chemically similar to cannabinoids that has been linked to improved mood.
However, some experts debate whether chocolate contains enough of these compounds to trigger a psychological response.
Regardless, it’s high in health-promoting flavonoids, which have been shown to increase blood flow to your brain, reduce inflammation, and boost brain health, all of which may support mood regulation.
Finally, chocolate has a high hedonic rating, meaning that its pleasurable taste, texture, and smell may also promote good mood.
Because milk chocolate contains added ingredients like sugar and fat, it’s best to opt for dark chocolate — which is higher in flavonoids and lower in added sugar. You should still stick to 1–2 small squares (of 70% or more cocoa solids) at a time since it’s a high calorie food.
3. Fermented foods
Fermented foods, which include kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut, may improve gut health and mood.
The fermentation process allows live bacteria to thrive in foods that are then able to convert sugars into alcohol and acids.
During this process, probiotics are created. These live microorganisms support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and may increase serotonin levels.
It’s important to note that not all fermented foods are significant sources of probiotics, such as in the case of beer, some breads, and wine, due to cooking and filtering.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects many facets of human behavior, such as mood, stress response, appetite, and sexual drive. Up to 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced by your gut microbiome, or the collection of healthy bacteria in your gut.
In addition, the gut microbiome plays a role in brain health. Research is beginning to show a connection between healthy gut bacteria and lower rates of depression.
Still, more research is needed to understand how probiotics may regulate mood.
Bananas may help turn a frown upside down.
They’re high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Furthermore, one large banana (136 grams) provides 16 grams of sugar and 3.5 grams of fiber.
When paired with fiber, sugar is released slowly into your bloodstream, allowing for stable blood sugar levels and better mood control. Blood sugar levels that are too low may lead to irritability and mood swings.
Finally, this ubiquitous tropical fruit, especially when still showing green on the peel, is an excellent source of prebiotics, a type of fiber that helps feed healthy bacteria in your gut. A robust gut microbiome is associated with lower rates of mood disorders."
BY ANNE LORA SCAGLIUSI | May 25, 2021
"Jen Schwartz, mental health advocate and CEO of Motherhood Understood, first experienced perinatal depression a day after giving birth. “The biggest red flag was that I was having scary thoughts about wanting to get hurt or sick so I could go back to the hospital and not have to take care of my baby,” she says. “I had no interest in my son. I thought I had made a huge mistake becoming a mother and I couldn’t understand why I was failing at something that I believed was supposed to come naturally and that all other women were so good at.”
According to the World Health Organization, about 10 percent of pregnant women and 13 percent of new mothers will experience a mental disorder, the main one being depression. Without appropriate intervention, poor maternal mental health can have long term and adverse implications for not just these women, but their children and families, too. In most cases, however, women may not be aware of the help available or even that they might need it.
“Most of the time, they mistakenly think they are failing at parenting,” says Wendy Davis, executive director of Postpartum Support International (PSI). “They don't realize they are going through a temporary, treatable experience that many others have gone through.”
To find out more during World Mental Health Awareness Month, Vogue speaks to a range of global mental health experts and women who have experienced perinatal depression.
What is perinatal depression?
"Perinatal depression is the experience of depression that begins during pregnancy [prenatal depression] or after the baby is born [postpartum depression]. Most people have heard of perinatal depression, but what’s equally common for mums to experience is perinatal anxiety either separately, or with depression,” explains Canadian therapist Kate Borsato. Perinatal depression does not discriminate. “Some people are surprised when I tell them that I experienced postpartum anxiety, because of my job as a therapist for mums. But mental illness doesn’t really care who you are or what you know.”
While anyone can experience it, there are some known risk factors that increase women’s chances of developing mental health difficulties in the perinatal period. According to Australia-based social worker and founder of Mama Matters, Fiona Weaver, these include a “previous history of depression or anxiety, those who have limited support networks, have experienced birth or pregnancy trauma, infertility or who may be genetically predisposed to it.”
What are the signs and symptoms to look out for?
Symptoms differ for everyone, and may include feelings of anger, anxiety, fatigue, neglecting personal hygiene and health or surroundings, fear and/or guilt, lack of interest in the baby, change in appetite and sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating/making decisions, loss of enjoyment or enthusiasm for anything, and possible thoughts of harming the baby or oneself.
Women can also develop postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, and postpartum psychosis. Copenhagen-based content creator Clara Aatoft was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and psychosis months after becoming a new mum. “For the first three months, I didn't sleep at all. I was constantly aware of my daughter’s needs. She was later diagnosed with colic. When I gave up breastfeeding and switched to the bottle, my depression and psychosis went full-blown.” She continues, “I started thinking that my daughter was a robot that someone placed a chip inside at the hospital. I attempted suicide and ended up in the psychiatric ward. I’m very well now, still medicated on antidepressants. But my daughter and I have the best relationship.”
By Leah Campbell | Medically Reviewed by Alex Klein, PsyD | July 26, 2021
"School anxiety isn’t at all uncommon, but how can parents help?
Most parents can probably remember dealing with some level of school anxiety in their own childhoods. Maybe it was over a test you weren’t prepared to take. Or it could have been a disagreement with friends that left you feeling anxious about facing them in the halls.
Whatever the case may be, you may have had knots in your stomach at the thought of going to school.
Kids today experience the exact same thing, but at a level that is potentially higher than ever before.
After all, kids today have to deal with the impacts of social media seeping into their real-life social interactions. They’re facing ever-increasing academic expectations. They’re up against a rise in bullying.
And in a world that’s slowly reopening, yet still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many may also be experiencing a loss of social skills and anxiety around a return to school after over a year of online learning.
It’s no wonder that the estimated prevalence of anxiety among children ages 6 to 17 has increased over time — from about 5.5% in 2003 to 7.1% in 2016.
Plus, evidence suggests that children and young adults experienced an increase in anxiety symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 7.1% of kids between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with anxiety. For 2% to 5% of kids, that translates into anxiety-based school refusal — one potential result of unaddressed school anxiety.
In other words: School anxiety isn’t at all uncommon. But how can parents of kids with school anxiety help?
What is school anxiety, exactly?
There are quite a few types of anxiety that children may experience, many of which may translate into school anxiety. These include:
For preschoolers, it may have more to do with separation anxiety and a fear of being away from mom, dad, or other caregivers. This may result in tantrums at school drop-off and trouble relaxing throughout the day.
By elementary school, school anxiety could be related to any of the above types of anxiety.
A student this age may not yet have developed age-appropriate social skills and may have anxiety about school as a result, or they may spend excessive time worrying about academic expectations — to the extent of not wanting to go.
Middle schoolers are beginning to develop a social hierarchy that can result in an increase in bullying and various friendship turmoil, all of which can contribute to school anxiety.
And by high school, students may be juggling problems in their home lives and within their friendships and relationships, alongside mounting responsibilities like holding down a job and trying to achieve good grades for college.
At all these ages, school anxiety may result in school avoidance and refusal.
Signs of anxiety about school
According to the children’s mental health advocacy group Child Mind Institute, school anxiety can manifest in a lot of ways. Parents and teachers may notice their students are:
"Over 1 billion women around the world will have experienced perimenopause by 2025. But a culture that has spent years dismissing the process might explain why we don’t know more about it.
By: Jessica Grose | April 29, 2021
"Angie McKaig calls it “peri brain” out loud, in meetings. That’s when the 49-year-old has moments of perimenopause-related brain fog so intense that she will forget the point she is trying to make in the middle of a sentence. Sometimes it will happen when she’s presenting to her colleagues in digital marketing at Canada’s largest bank in Toronto. But it can happen anywhere — she has forgotten her own address. Twice.
Ms. McKaig’s symptoms were a rude surprise when she first started experiencing them in 2018, right around when her mother died. She had an irregular period, hot flashes, insomnia and massive hair loss along with memory issues she describes as “like somebody had taken my brain and done the Etch A Sketch thing,” which is to say, shaken it until it was blank.
She thought she might have early-onset Alzheimer’s, or that these changes were a physical response to her grief, until her therapist told her that her symptoms were typical signs of perimenopause, which is defined as the final years of a woman’s reproductive life leading up to the cessation of her period, or menopause. It usually begins in a woman’s 40s, and is marked by fluctuating hormones and a raft of mental and physical symptoms that are “sufficiently bothersome” to send almost 90 percent of women to their doctors for advice about how to cope.
Ms. McKaig is aggressively transparent about her “peri brain” at work, because she “realized how few people actually talk about this, and how little information we are given. So I have tried to normalize it,” she said.
An oft-cited statistic from the North American Menopause Society is that by 2025, more than 1 billion women around the world will be post-menopausal. The scientific study of perimenopause has been going on for decades, and the cultural discussion of this mind and body shift has reached something of a new fever pitch, with several books on the subject coming out this spring and a gaggle of “femtech” companies vowing to disrupt perimenopause.
If the experience of perimenopause is this universal, why did almost every single layperson interviewed for this article say something along the lines of: No one told me it would be like this?
“You’re hearing what I’m hearing, ‘Nobody ever told me this, my mother never told me this,’ and I had the same experiences many years ago with my mother,” said Dr. Lila Nachtigall, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine who has been treating perimenopausal women for 50 years, and is an adviser to Elektra Health, a telemedicine start-up.
Dr. Nachtigall said her mother had the worst hot flashes, and even though they were living in the same house when her mother was experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, they never discussed it. “That was part of the taboo. You were supposed to suffer in silence.”
The shroud of secrecy around women’s intimate bodily functions is among the many reasons experts cite for the lack of public knowledge about women’s health in midlife. But looking at the medical and cultural understanding of perimenopause through history reveals how this rite of passage, sometimes compared to a second puberty, has been overlooked and under discussed.
From ‘Women’s Hell’ to ‘Age of Renewal’
Though the ancient Greeks and Romans knew a woman’s fertility ended in midlife, there are few references to menopause in their texts, according to Susan Mattern, a professor of history at the University of Georgia, in her book “The Slow Moon Climbs: The Science, History, and Meaning of Menopause.”
The term “menopause” wasn’t used until around 1820, when it was coined by Charles de Gardanne, a French physician. Before then, it was colloquially referred to as “women’s hell,” “green old age” and “death of sex,” Dr. Mattern notes. Dr. de Gardanne cited 50 menopause-related conditions that sound somewhat absurd to modern ears, including “epilepsy, nymphomania, gout, hysterical fits and cancer.”
By: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | April 19, 2021
"Mental health of children and parents —a strong connection
The mental health of children is connected to their parents’ mental health. A recent study found that 1 in 14 children has a caregiver with poor mental health. Fathers and mothers—and other caregivers who have the role of parent—need support, which, in turn, can help them support their children’s mental health. CDC works to make sure that parents get the support they need.
A child’s mental health is supported by their parents
Being mentally healthy during childhood includes reaching developmental and emotional milestones and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems. Mentally healthy children are more likely to have a positive quality of life and are more likely to function well at home, in school, and in their communities.
A child’s healthy development depends on their parents—and other caregivers who act in the role of parents—who serve as their first sources of support in becoming independent and leading healthy and successful lives.
The mental health of parents and children is connected in multiple ways. Parents who have their own mental health challenges, such as coping with symptoms of depression or anxiety (fear or worry), may have more difficulty providing care for their child compared to parents who describe their mental health as good. Caring for children can create challenges for parents, particularly if they lack resources and support, which can have a negative effect on a parent’s mental health. Parents and children may also experience shared risks, such as inherited vulnerabilities, living in unsafe environments, and facing discrimination or deprivation.
Poor mental health in parents is related to poor mental and physical health in children
A recent study asked parents (or caregivers who had the role of parent) to report on their child’s mental and physical health as well as their own mental health. One in 14 children aged 0–17 years had a parent who reported poor mental health, and those children were more likely to have poor general health, to have a mental, emotional, or developmental disability, to have adverse childhood experiences such as exposure to violence or family disruptions including divorce, and to be living in poverty.
Fathers are important for children’s mental health
Fathers are important for promoting children’s mental health, although they are not as often included in research studies as mothers. The recent study looked at fathers and other male caregivers and found similar connections between their mental health and their child’s general and mental health as for mothers and other female caregivers.
Supporting parents’ mental health
Supporting parents, and caregivers who act in the role of parent, is a critical public health priority. CDC provides parents with information about child health and development, including positive parenting tips, information and support when parents have concerns about their child’s development, or help with challenging behavior. CDC supports a variety of programs and services that address adverse childhood experiences that affect children’s and parents’ mental health, including programs to prevent child maltreatment and programs that support maternal mental health during and after pregnancy. CDC also examines issues related to health equity and social determinants of health, including racism, that affect the emotional health of parents and children. More work is needed to understand how to address risks to parents’ mental health.
To help parents and other adults with mental health concerns in times of distress, CDC funded the web campaign How Right Now as a way to find resources and support. CDC is also funding the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to develop an online resource for parents to learn skills to cope with emotions and behavior using evidence-based approaches to improving mental health, which will be released this summer."
By: Robin Westen
"My friend Emily has three amazingly well-behaved children. They put their toys away when she tells them to, go to bed without a fuss, and even settle their own disputes. I actually witnessed her 3-year-old son calmly ask for a truck back from a friend who had yanked it out of his hands.
Emily admits that her children have their moments—"They are kids, after all!"—but says that real discipline challenges are few and far between. "What's your secret?" I once asked, hoping she could impart some much-needed wisdom. "Threatening them with punishment? Giving them time-outs? Bribing them with Oreos?" Emily shook her head. "Nothing like that," she told me. "If I've done anything right, it's that I've made it clear from the get-go what I expect from them. Now, all I have to do is shoot them a look, and they know to discipline themselves."
It may sound too good to be true, but experts agree that Emily has the right idea about setting expectations for your kids. "When you make your expectations clear from the time your children are toddlers, they internalize those expectations and begin to expect the same thing from themselves," says Sharon K. Hall, Ph.D., author of Raising Kids in the 21st Century. In other words, since kids are naturally inclined to want to please their parents, they'll try to behave in the way that you've taught them to independent of parental involvement. In fact, experts say that kids as young as 18 months are empathetic and responsive to their parents' expectations.
Even better news: Teaching self-discipline to a young child isn't as daunting as it sounds. "If you focus on the essentials starting at around age 2, your child will catch on faster, resist less, and ultimately behave better," says Robert Brooks, Ph.D., coauthor of Raising a Self-Disciplined Child. These four essentials will help you raise a kid who can keep her own behavior in check.
Set Firm Rules—and Expect Respect
Kids who believe they can do anything they feel like doing, and get whatever they want, tend to be the ones who act out by whining or throwing a tantrum when their demands aren't met. "Children who understand that there are well-defined boundaries learn how to self-regulate and to respect limits," says Hal Runkel, family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting.
Build Problem-Solving Skills
One of the major reasons children behave badly is because they feel frustrated and powerless. "When you give children the tools they need to figure things out on their own, they will behave better because they'll be better equipped to take care of themselves and won't come screaming to you or act out every time they encounter a challenge," says Dr. Brooks.
By: Amy Morin, LCSW | Updated on September 13, 2019
"A well-mannered child will stand out in today's world for all the right reasons. Saying, "Please" and "thank you," and using good table manners will get your child noticed by teachers and other parents.
Teaching good manners can seem a little tricky, however. It can be hard to convince a child to follow basic manners when his peers at school might not be doing so.
Help your child master basic manners with these discipline strategies:
1. Praise Your Child’s Use of Manners
Praise your child whenever you catch him using good manners. For young children, this may mean saying, "Great job remembering to say 'thank you.'"
Praise older kids for putting their phone away when they're at the dinner table or for shaking hands when greeting a new person.
If you’ve got a younger child, provide praise right away. Say, “You did a nice job thanking Grandma for that gift.”
Don’t embarrass a teen by praising him in front of other people. Instead, have a private conversation about how you appreciate that he behaved politely toward guests at a family gathering or give him positive feedback on how he handled an interaction with a store clerk.
2. Model Polite Behavior
The best way to teach your child any new skill is to be a good role model. When your child sees you speaking politely to others and using your manners, he’ll pick up on that.
Send thank you notes, ask for things politely, and show appreciation when people are kind. Whether you're in line at the grocery store or you're calling your doctor's office, your kids are paying attention to your behavior.
And be careful about how you handle situations when you’re upset. If you’re angry with someone, do you tend to raise your voice? Do you use harsh words when you think someone has treated you unfairly? Your message about the importance of using manners won’t be heard if you don’t model how to behave politely and respectfully.
3. Role-Play Tricky Situations
Role-playing gives kids an opportunity to practice their skills. It can be a helpful strategy when you're entering into a new situation or when you're facing some complicated circumstances.
If your 5-year-old has invited friends to his birthday party, role-play how to use manners while opening presents. Help him practice how to thank people for his gift and how to respond if he opens a gift that he doesn’t particularly like.
Sit down with your child and say, “What would you do if…” and then see what he has to say. Pretend to be a friend or another adult and see how your child responds to specific situations. Then, provide feedback and help your child discover how to behave politely and respectfully in various scenarios.
4. Provide a Brief Explanation
Avoid lecturing or telling long-winded tales. Instead, simply state the reason why a specific behavior may not be appreciated.
If your child is chewing with his mouth open, say, "People don't want to see the food in your mouth when they're trying to eat." If you make a big deal about it, you may inadvertently encourage the behavior to continue.
But, if you can just state the reason in a calm and matter-of-fact manner, it can serve as a reminder for your child about why other people may not appreciate what he's doing."
By Ivana Kottasová, CNN | July 31, 2021
(CNN)-"The Delta variant of Covid-19 is dominating cases worldwide, and health officials in some countries are sounding alarm over its impact on pregnant women.
Several of England's top health officials issued a joint statement on Friday urging pregnant women to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. They pointed to new data showing that 98% of expectant mothers admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 in the country since May were unvaccinated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also previously said that infected, pregnant women face an increased risk of developing severe Covid-19 compared with non-pregnant women of a similar age.One concern is that risk might be even higher with the Delta strain, which has been shown to be more contagious and can cause more severe disease compared to the earlier variants of the virus.Here's what you need to know.
Is Delta more dangerous if you're pregnant?
The Delta variant is more contagious and can cause more severe disease for everyone, including pregnant women.The latest data gathered by the UK Obstetric Surveillance System (UKOSS) showed the number of pregnant women that are being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 is increasing in the UK due to the Delta strain.
"Compared to the original Covid virus the new variants (alpha and then delta) caused progressively more severe disease in pregnant women," Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at King's College London, said in a statement to the UK's Science Media Centre. "This included need for ventilation, intensive care admission and pneumonia, more than 50% more likely to occur," he added.
The data collected by UKOSS show that around 33% of women in hospital with Covid-19 needed respiratory support and that 15% needed intensive care.
The UKOSS data only includes pregnant women. However, the group said that while the increase in hospitalizations was broadly in line with the current rise in Covid-19 hospital admissions in the UK's general population, the data highlights an increase among pregnant women needing care for acute symptoms.
What about risks to the baby?
Previous studies have shown that Covid-19 infection raises the risk of negative outcomes for both the mother and the baby. These risks include preeclampsia, infections, admission to hospital intensive care units and even death.
According to an April study published in JAMA Pediatrics that looked at over 2,000 pregnant women in 43 medical institutions across 18 countries, babies born to mothers infected with the coronavirus were also at a somewhat higher risk of preterm birth and low birth weight.
The new data collected by UKOSS showed that one in five women admitted to hospital with serious Covid-19 symptoms went on to give birth prematurely, and the likelihood of delivery by C-section doubled. One in five babies born to mothers with coronavirus symptoms were also admitted to neonatal units.
Is the vaccine safe for pregnant people?
Yes. Studies and real-world data have shown there are no specific safety concerns for pregnant people or their babies on taking a Covid-19 vaccine.
"Hundreds of thousands of pregnant women worldwide have been vaccinated, safely and effectively protecting themselves against Covid and dramatically reducing their risk of serious illness or harm to their baby," Gill Walton, the chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives in the UK, said in a statement on Friday.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization in the UK and Australia's Technical Advisory Group on Immunization all advise pregnant women to get a Covid-19 shot. The WHO says that pregnant women should get the vaccine in situations where the benefits of vaccination outweigh the potential risks -- such as if they are living in areas with high number of cases."
By Nicole Harris | January 25, 2021
"Art has many benefits for children: it encourages self-expression, improves motor skills, develops patience and problem-" abilities, and increases concentration. It also gives kids a boost of self-esteem when they complete something independently. And maybe most important to kids? It's fun!
Keep kids busy and encourage their creativity with these art activities that are easy for little hands to handle. And when it comes to supplies, you probably already have most of them at home.
1. Big Reveal
For this easy art activity for kids, you'll need watercolor paper, watercolor paints, painter’s tape, a paintbrush, crayons, and stickers.
After taping the watercolor paper to a flat surface (like a newspaper-covered table) encourage your child to decorate it with crayons and/or stickers. Then they can paint the entire paper with watercolors. Wait until it’s dry, then gently remove the tape and stickers. These items will leave behind bright white designs on the paper! The crayons will also repel the watercolor, resulting in unpainted “negative space."
2. Natural Collage
Start this art activity by printing out a full-body photo of your child (for reference, ours is 8.5 inches by 11 inches). Then take a walk outside to gather “natural art supplies” from the landscape—think leaves, twigs, flowers, and bark. Back at home, glue the items to the photo to create a memorable collage to hang in your home!
3. Coffee Filter Art
Tennessee art teacher Rachel Motta, who works with the Metropolitan Nashville Public School district, shares how to turn coffee filters into paper glass with this art project for kids. It was inspired by exhibitions of Dale Chihuly's contemporary, colorful bowl-shaped glass sculptures called Macchia.
Grab a coffee filter; its translucency mimics the look of glass. Give the filter uneven edges with scissors, then use non-permanent markers to make lines and spots on it. Lay the coffee filter on a turned-over yogurt container or plastic cup, apply spray starch, and watch the colors bleed together. When the coffee filter becomes saturated, stop and let it dry.
4. Handmade Tiles
For this art and craft activity for kids, you’ll simply need the power of the sun and a few basic materials: ½ cup water, 1 ½ cup flour, ¾ cup salt, a mixing spoon, a mixing bowl, a sheet tray, a rolling pin, acrylic paint, and paintbrushes. You can decorate the tile with cookie cutters (any shape), rubber stamps, and small objects.
To start, mix the water, flour, and salt in a bowl, and knead it for about 2 minutes. Section of a ball of the dough onto a lightly dusted countertop, and roll it into a square shape—this will be your tile. Create impressions in the soft dough with your cookie cutter, rubber stamp, or object (for example, a silk flower). Add details with a pencil. Once you’re satisfied, place the tile on the sheet tray in direct sunlight. Leave it for several hours, checking periodically to notice changes in the dough, before flipping it to dry the bottom. Color the dried tile with acrylic paint. (Note: You can make several tiles with the dough recipe, so feel free to get creative with different designs!)
5. Kaleidoscope Collage
Grab some poster board or a large canvas, and get ready to make this kaleidoscope of colors! First, create a mixture of ½ cup craft glue and ¼ cup water. After your child draws a large shape (like a circle or square) on the poster, brush it with some of the mixture. Apply tissue paper squares to the wet board, brush some more glue over them, and repeat this process until you’ve covered the shape. To prevent messy dripping, we recommend completing this project outside on a flat surface (just make sure it’s not too windy!)
6. 3-D Portrait
3-D elements elevate this easy art activity for kids! Draw a simple image on a piece of card stock, cardboard, or one side of a cereal box. Ball up pieces of crepe paper, then attach them to the canvas with tacky glue."
BY SARA SHULMAN | JUL 24, 2021
"With stars like Debra Messing and Halle Berry looking decades younger than their actual age, 40 is definitely the new 30! Woman are no longer dreading reaching middle age and are feeling healthier than ever, thanks to the latest fitness and wellness trends. But aging comes with a lot of changes, too. It's usually around 40 when some women start to form deeper fine lines and wrinkles. The big 4-0 also signals the importance of doing health screenings regularly. For example, at age 40, women should have their first mammogram.
“Women must always remain proactive about their health at every age,” says Taz Bhatia, MD, a board-certified integrative medicine physician, women’s health expert and author of The Super Women RX. The good news is there are ways to anticipate where your health is headed as you age through preventative screenings and an active lifestyle. Remember, age is just a number so keep it that way!
Losing weight in your 20s was as easy as cutting out soda for a week, but as women age, it gets harder to lose weight and easier to gain it. “Age, inactivity, stress levels, and poor dietary choices are the biggest precluding factors to weight gain,” says Kecia Gaither, MD, a New York City-based OB/GYN and director of perinatal services at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx. “Staying active is key,” she explains.
Fatigue and low energy
Feeling tired may not seem like something new to a woman in her 40s. After all, you’re probably working full-time, raising children, and managing a home, but as women age, they tend to get more tired, quicker. This is due mainly to hormonal changes happening from menopause. “Consistent sleep is a key factor in rejuvenating and replenishing the body,” Dr. Bhatia says. Dr. Bhatia recommends seven hours of consistent sleep for five nights a week.
“This is the most common cause of death in American women,” Dr. Gaither says. Over time, plaque builds up in the arteries, causing them to narrow and harden. "This prevents the normal flow of blood and oxygen that the heart needs. A clot may develop over the plaque, blocking the flow to the heart leading to a heart attack.” This is just another reason diet and exercise are so important.
There are numerous reasons women in their 40s experience a low sex drive. Everything from hormonal changes to vaginal dryness could be the cause. Sometimes the solution can be as simple as using an estrogen cream, but in other cases, it may mean something more serious. Always talk to your doctor no matter how serious or not you think the issue is.
“Breast and cervical cancer are the two most common cancers affecting women,” Dr. Gaither says. Breast cancer can occur at any age, but the risk increases with age. "Cervical cancer can affect any woman who is or has been sexually active, but it primarily occurs in women who have had HPV, are immune compromised, have poor nutrition, and don’t get pap smears,” she adds. Routine mammograms are key once you hit 40.
As if fatigue and low energy weren’t issue enough, insomnia plagues many middle-aged women as well. In fact, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that close to 20 percent of women age 40 to 59 said they had trouble falling asleep on four or more nights a week. The study explains that for many this is due to the onset of menopause. Night sweats, skyrocketing body temperatures, and mood swings can all affect sleep patterns.
Although hair loss for both men and women is mainly hereditary, hormones during menopause can play a roll as well. But there are supplements and treatments you can take in order to help prevent hair loss, so if you’re worried, ask your doctor."
By: MEGHAN SPLAWN | Updated FEB 15, 2021
"I have a personal rule when it comes to my kids: I always say yes when they ask to help with cooking. This doesn’t mean I’m inviting them to cook every meal with me, but when they ask I always oblige. Cooking with kids sometimes that means dinner takes 10, 15, even 20 minutes longer to get on the table, but we always learn something — even if it’s just to make sure the lid is tightly sealed on the paprika.
Letting them help now in the kitchen means they will learn to master a few basic skills before we full expect them to contribute to weekly meals. Dinner is the one meal we need the most weeknight help with, so it only makes sense to rope them into cooking what we will eat as a family. My 8-year-old has fully embraced being my sous-chef-in-training and cooks along with me two or three nights a week. Here are 18 of our go-to dinner recipes that are perfect for cooking with kids."
By Kim Hooper | July 19, 2021
"Many men struggle with mental health after becoming fathers. But stigma and societal norms keep them from getting help."
"When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I took a parent prep class in which they talked at length about the signs of maternal postpartum depression. My husband took detailed notes. After all, I had a history of depression and occasionally fell down dark, deep rabbit holes from which only medication and therapy could pull me out.
My husband, on the other hand, is the epitome of stable. When his parents died in our first few years of knowing each other, I required more comforting than he did. If I had taken bets on who between us would suffer depression following the birth of our daughter, every single one of our loved ones would have bet on me. And I wouldn’t have blamed them.
But it wasn’t me.
I’d never thought about the possibility of men struggling with depression after the birth of a child. At the time I was focused on the well-being of our daughter, as well as my own physical and mental health. But men do struggle also.
As many as one in six men can experience high levels of anxiety in the postpartum period, and about 10 percent of new dads experience postpartum depression. In the 3- to 6-month postpartum period, that rate climbs to 25 percent.
Perhaps the fact that my husband was low on my list of concerns contributed to the problem, a problem that dramatically impacted the first three years of our family’s life.
One weekday morning in 2019, while watching our then-21-month-old daughter sitting in her high chair, shoveling fistfuls of oatmeal into her face, my husband said:
“I hate this time of day.”
“Why?” I asked. From where I stood, it was all rather pleasant.
“I just hate parenting,” he said. “It’s relentless.”
I was not surprised to hear this. I had suspected a problem and had even started reading about postpartum depression online.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines depression “with peripartum onset” as a major depressive episode during pregnancy or within four weeks after birth. For men, this may develop more slowly over a full year.
Typically, symptoms of a major depressive episode may include feeling sad, crying, having recurrent thoughts of death and losing interest in activities. According to Sheehan D. Fisher, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, symptoms for men can differ.
“The actual DSM diagnosis of depression doesn’t always fit how men experience depression,” Dr. Fisher said. For men, symptoms may include frustration, agitation and irritability, an increase in dopamine-boosting activities (drinking, drugs, gambling) and isolation.
That was my husband — frustrated, irritable and detached. He went to bed before 7 p.m., claiming exhaustion, though I was the one getting up with our daughter every night. He snapped at the littlest things. He just wanted to be left alone.
I tried to help with pep talks: “She’s a good kid! We’re so lucky!” Then I remembered how, when I was depressed, such cheerleading only made me feel worse, as if I was letting others down with my inability to snap out of it.
So I whisked our daughter off to playgrounds, giving him time to lounge on the couch or obsessively clean, something he’d taken up as a hobby. I encouraged him to go surfing or grab a beer with a friend, but he shrugged off these suggestions.
I tried to initiate conversation, by asking how he felt. He just kept saying, “I’m fine,” a lie familiar to me from my own depression days. Unlike women, men are often socialized to value independence, dominance, stoicism, strength, self-reliance and control over their emotions, and many see weakness as shameful."
By Christin Perry | February 25, 2020
"Almost as soon as those two pink lines pop up on a pregnancy test, your hormones get the message that something's different at mission control. Progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) begin pumping to signal your body to halt production on your next menstrual period, and begin forming that cluster of cells into a mini-you instead. As you probably already know, as these hormones get to work, you'll experience an onslaught of early pregnancy symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and breast tenderness.
As pregnancy progresses, our bodies produce extraordinary amounts of estrogen and progesterone, says Aumatma Shah, fertility specialist and naturopathic doctor at the Bay Area's Holistic Fertility Center. "These two steroidal hormones are key to creating dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters in the brain that are important in feeling calm and happy. This is why a lot of women feel amazing when pregnant: Pregnancy offers a surge of hormones and neurotransmitters that help us feel great."
But what happens to those feel-good pregnancy hormones once your baby is born? "Unfortunately, immediately postpartum and the week following delivery, estrogen and progesterone will both plummet. Simultaneously, there will be a surge in prolactin and oxytocin," says Shah.
These wildly swinging hormones are to blame for those crazy emotions you'll experience after giving birth. Here's a closer look at what happens to your hormones postpartum and when so you know what to expect—and so you know the loony emotions you're feeling are all completely normal.
What Happens to Hormones Immediately After Giving Birth?
The birth of your sweet bundle of joy is undoubtedly one of the most exciting moments of your life. No matter how long you labor or what time you give birth—yes, even if it's at 3 a.m.—you'll likely feel an amazing, indescribable high when you meet your baby for the first time, or shortly thereafter. But those surging hormones will plummet over the next few days. Here's what's going on:
Postpartum Hormones at 3 to 6 Weeks
After those first few weeks pass, you may start to feel those rollercoaster-like emotions start to regulate a bit as you begin to get into the groove of caring for baby and get used to the lack of sleep. Ashley Margeson, a naturopathic doctor says, "the first three months are a bit of a whirlwind of sleep loss and emotions as your system runs mostly on adrenaline to move you through the day."
Around the six-week mark, she says, symptoms of postpartum depression may begin to show as those positive post-birth hormones continue to fade. "The changes you should look for closely are not wanting to shower or focus on hygiene, being afraid of leaving your baby with someone else, not being able to sleep fully due to continually checking on baby, and lack of desire for common tasks like eating, drinking, being around people, and leaving the house."
By: Mind Panda
"Keeping kids entertained with wholesome things to do is tough! Mindfulness activities for kids provide an excellent opportunity to engage with young ones while helping them to develop valuable life skills.
In this article, we share the best mindfulness activities for kids of all ages. We’ll start with toddlers and end with early teens. Feel free to skip to your preferred age group.
While we have split these kids mindfulness exercises into age groups, there are no set rules. You can try any of these activities for any age group.
Mindfulness Activities for Toddlers (1 – 3 years)
If you have a toddler, we don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be to get them to sit still or focus for extended periods!
The most effective mindfulness activities for toddlers are basic sensory recognition exercises – smell, taste, touch, hear, see. The goal is to develop a curious mindset, the basis for mindfulness and mediation.
With fewer distractions, bathtime is a fantastic opportunity to teach a toddler mindfulness. As you’re washing your child, make a point of verbalising what you are doing.
For example, “washing Jake’s back.” Try to get your child to repeat what you are saying. Use items in the bath like soap, sponge, face cloth, or toys to encourage your child to verbalise things that might otherwise remain in the subconscious. For example, “soap is slimy, or the sponge is soft.”
Mealtime is another opportunity for a toddler’s mindfulness activity. Talk to them about the food. Teach your child to describe the flavour, texture, and perhaps aroma of what they are eating. Again, the goal is to make unconscious thoughts and actions conscious.
Most of a child’s early development comes from play. Playtime is a fantastic opportunity to encourage your child to play consciously. Choose games and activities which stimulate the senses.
If you choose an art project, start by getting them to feel the texture of the paint, the bristles of the brush, and verbalise those actions.
Through all of these mindfulness activities for toddlers, the goal is to nurture a curious mind. Our goal is to bring the unconscious to the conscious mind.
Mindfulness Activities for Preschoolers (4 – 6 years)
As your child progresses from toddler to preschooler, their vocabulary grows, and they begin to start identifying emotions.
This stage of development is the perfect time to use mindfulness activities to teach your child about understanding and dealing with emotions.
SnapHappy Emotional Awareness Game
MindPanda’s SnapHappy emotional awareness game is perfect for preschoolers but can also be helpful for kids up to the age of 10.
SnapHappy encourages children to think outside the box to help build social skills and emotional intelligence. The game prompts players to describe emotions and why these feelings might occur."
By: Colleen Lanin | February 16, 2021
"This family road trip packing list will help keep your crew content and safe on the go. Road trips promise freedom, scenic landscapes, and quirky roadside attractions. Hitting the road with children, however, can also mean seemingly constant potty breaks, sibling disputes, car sickness, and backseat whining. For a smooth car journey, be sure to pack these road trip essentials for kids.
1. Travel Toys and Games
Old school games like 20 Questions and the Alphabet Game can be entertaining, but eventually kids will want something else to pass the time. Before every road trip, I purchase at least one travel craft for each of my children. A plastic travel soap box holds crayons nicely and can be used on every trip. Buy a special new toy or two for each vacation, too. You should also store a separate stash of hidden travel toys to keep old favorites fresh on each trip. Need some suggestions? Check out our picks for the best travel toys and crafts for kids and the best travel games for toddlers to teens.
2. Pit Stop Playthings
Keeping kids content inside the car is important but don’t forget to bring some outdoor toys for pit stops as well. Mini bottles of bubbles, a beach ball, Frisbee, or jump rope can help kids get active when you stop along your route at rest stops and parks.
3. Plastic Trash Bags
Road trips with kids can be messy. A plastic grocery bag keeps trash off the floor and seats. I hang a bag in the backseat from the front armrests. This enables my kids to deposit their juice boxes and snack wrappers into the trash themselves. Bring a few along so you can easily toss refuse at pit stops.
3. Bucket for Motion
SicknessIf traveling with young children, then a bucket is a road trip must-have. Why? You’ll need this case of car sickness or sudden bout of food poisoning or stomach flu. Older kids can probably manage just fine with a plastic bag, but young children aren’t great at aiming and shouldn’t handle plastic bags due to suffocation hazards. A simple plastic beach pail should do the trick. Keep the bucket within arm’s reach. It won’t do you any good buried under a pile of suitcases in the trunk. Learn tips for avoiding motion sickness before you hit the road.
4. Road Trip Playlist
Sure, you can listen to the radio. But a road trip playlist makes the miles more fun. Create a playlist for your smart phone and plug it in for the whole family to enjoy through the car’s speakers (if your car offers this technology). Choose songs that appeal to all family members, so everyone is excited to listen along."
By: Jessica Grose | February 4th, 2021
"In early September, as the school year inched closer, a group of mothers in New Jersey decided they would gather in a park, at a safe social distance, and scream their lungs out. For months, as the pandemic disrupted work and home life, these moms, like so many parents, had been stretched thin — acting as caregivers, teachers and earners at once. They were breaking.
As are mothers all over the United States.
By now, you have read the headlines, repeating like a depressing drum beat:
“Working moms are not okay.” “Pandemic Triples Anxiety And Depression Symptoms In New Mothers.” “Working Moms Are Reaching The Breaking Point.”
You can also see the problem in numbers: Almost 1 million mothers have left the workforce — with Black mothers, Hispanic mothers and single mothers among the hardest hit. Almost one in four children experienced food insecurity in 2020, which is intimately related to the loss of maternal income. And more than three quarters of parents with children ages 8 to 12 say the uncertainty around the current school year is causing them stress.
Despite these alarm bells clanging, signaling a financial and emotional disaster among America’s mothers, who are doing most of the increased amount of child care and domestic work during this pandemic, the cultural and policy response enacted at this point has been nearly nonexistent.
The pandemic has touched every group of Americans, and millions are suffering, hungry and grieving. But many mothers in particular get no space or time to recover.
The impact is not just about mothers’ fate as workers, though the economic fallout of these pandemic years might have lifelong consequences. The pandemic is also a mental health crisis for mothers that fervently needs to be addressed, or at the very least acknowledged.
“Just before the pandemic hit, for the first time ever, for a couple months, we had more women employed than men,” said Michael Madowitz, an economist at the Center for American Progress. “And now we are back to late 1980s levels of women in the labor force.” The long-term ramifications for mothers leaving work entirely or cutting back on work during this time include: a broken pipeline for higher-level jobs and a loss of Social Security and other potential retirement income.
“Covid took a crowbar into gender gaps and pried them open,” said Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan. Her long-term concerns are even more fundamental: Will watching a generation of mothers go through this difficult time with little support turn the next generation of women off from parenthood altogether?
The economic disaster of the pandemic is directly related to maternal stress levels, and by extension, the stress levels of American children. Philip Fisher, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon who runs an ongoing nationally representative survey on the impact of the pandemic on families with young children, points out that the stressors on mothers are magnified by a number of intersecting issues, including poverty, race, having special needs children and being a single parent.
“People are having a hard time making ends meet, that’s making parents stressed out, and that’s causing kids to be stressed out,” Dr. Fisher said. This buildup can lead to toxic stress, “And we know from all the science, that level of stress has a lasting impact on brain development, learning and physical health.” Almost 70 percent of mothers say that worry and stress from the pandemic have damaged their health.
The statistics on stress levels are shocking, but they are sterile; they don’t begin to expose the frayed lives of American mothers and their children during this pandemic. A young mother who self-identified as American Indian/Alaska Native summed up her situation in response to Dr. Fisher’s survey: “We are requesting government help for food. Relationship between partner and I are tense. I am personally struggling more now with depression and anxiety. My toddler has become more anxious as well and shown aggressive behavior. She seems overwhelmed most of the time.”
Times editor-at-large Jessica Bennett spent months communicating with three women, who kept detailed diaries of their days, for a look at just how much American mothers are doing every waking second."
By: Pregnancy & Postpartum TV | March 6, 2019
"Prenatal Yoga Bedtime or Prenatal Yoga Before Bed. Help get to sleep with this prenatal bedtime yoga or prenatal bedtime stretch. Prenatal yoga bedtime as a pregnancy insomnia remedies."
"What Is Prenatal Depression?
Prenatal depression, also called perinatal depression, is depression experienced by women during pregnancy. Like postpartum depression, prenatal (or perinatal) depression isn’t just a feeling of sadness—mothers who experience this mental health disorder may also feel anxious and angry.
You've likely heard of postpartum depression—and that's a good thing. The more that postpartum depression is talked about and understood, the more mothers will seek the help they need so that they can feel better and live full and healthy lives as new moms.
But prenatal depression is a maternal mood disorder that hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as it should. While prenatal depression can be treated, many expecting mothers don’t even know that it’s a “thing” and therefore don’t seek treatment for it.
Many feel ashamed to even share how they are feeling. After all, you are supposed to be overjoyed and excited when you are expecting a baby, right? It’s easy to feel guilt and shame when you are feeling the exact opposite.
Here’s what you should know about prenatal depression, including how common it is, what to look for in terms of symptoms, and most importantly, how to get help.
How Common Is Prenatal Depression?
Like postpartum depression, which impacts as many as 1 in 7 new moms, prenatal depression is actually quite common.
According to a journal article by Maria Muzik, MD, and Stefana Borovska, published in Mental Health in Family Medicine, 13% of pregnant moms experience depression.
As the authors note, perinatal depression (both prenatal and postpartum) is even more common among mothers facing adverse experiences, such as a history of depression or economic hardship.
“The prevalence of perinatal depression is even higher in vulnerable groups with certain risk factors,” the authors explain. “Young, single mothers, experiencing complications, with a history of stress, loss or trauma are far more likely to succumb to depression. Furthermore, one study found that up to 51% of women who experience socioeconomic disadvantage also report depressive symptoms during pregnancy.”
It's important to note prenatal depression doesn’t discriminate: You can experience it whether or not you have pre-existing risk factors. Always remember there is no shame in experiencing a serious bout of depression during pregnancy, and you are not alone.
Similar to postpartum depression, experts can’t pinpoint one particular cause of prenatal depression, but have hypothesized that it’s likely caused by a confluence of factors—a “perfect storm” of triggers that come to a head for some mothers during their pregnancies.
Either way, it’s important to note that whatever caused your prenatal depression, it most certainly wasn’t your fault. There was nothing you did wrong, and you are not a bad mom (or going to be a bad mom).
“Depression and anxiety during pregnancy or after birth don't happen because of something you do or don't do—they are medical conditions,” notes the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP).
“Although we don't fully understand the causes of these conditions, researchers think depression and anxiety during this time may result from a mix of physical, emotional, and environmental factors,” they add.
Prenatal depression manifests differently for every mom—you may even experience it differently from one pregnancy to another. It’s important to understand that anytime you feel overwhelmed by your emotions, unable to function in your day-to-day life, or just “off,” you should reach out to discuss your feelings with a trusted loved one or medical provider.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of prenatal depression:
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database."
Depression During Pregnancy Affect Infant’s Brain Anatomy, But No Change with Prenatal Exposure to SSRIs
By MGH Center for Women's Mental Health | June 22, 2021
"When a woman comes in for a consultation regarding the use of medications during pregnancy, we spend most of our time reviewing the potential risks of exposure to medications during pregnancy. However, we must also include a discussion of the effects of untreated psychiatric illness in the mother on the developing child, for there is a growing body of literature which demonstrates that what happens in utero, while the fetus is developing, may have effects on the child that persist into adulthood.
A number of recent studies have examined the brain anatomy of infants born to depressed mothers. Neuroimaging has revealed changes in connectivity between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex (reviewed in Duan et al, 2019), and it is hypothesized that these alterations are responsible for the children’s increased vulnerability to anxiety and depression.
In a recent study Sethnaa and colleagues add to this literature, using MRI to compare regional brain volumes in 31 3-to-6-month-old infants born to women with a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD, confirmed using the SCID) and 33 infants born to women without a current or past psychiatric diagnosis. The study recruited women during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy from antenatal clinics and perinatal psychiatric services in South London.
MRI assessments were conducted in infants between the ages of 3 and 6 months. Compared to infants born to non-depressed mothers, infants born to mothers with depression during pregnancy have larger subcortical grey matter volumes and smaller midbrain volumes. This finding persisted after adjusting for potential confounders, including medication use during pregnancy, postpartum depressive symptoms, and infant sex.
These findings are consistent with other studies looking at different types of insults, such as hypoxia and substance use, suggesting that these subcortical structures are particularly susceptible to changes in the in utero environment. The authors note that this finding of an association between maternal antenatal depression and midbrain development is not surprising given the midbrain’s role in stress regulation."
By: Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH | June 14, 2021
"Affirmations are statements that you use intentionally to instill a sense of positivity and purpose in your mind about a particular subject. You can use these short phrases and sentences to help yourself focus on and accept a positive message that you wish to remember.Affirmations are an example of using positive thinking to set an intention and increase the likelihood of positive results. Even better, they are simple to do, free, and accessible to all.
Why They Work
While there is no guarantee that affirmations will actually change the outcome of your pregnancy, some studies suggest that affirmations can reduce stress and anxiety—which can make it easier to rest, eat, and avoid issues such as headaches and fatigue. Plus, positive thoughts tend to cultivate positive feelings, which may help to make your pregnancy experience more enjoyable and relaxed.
Studies show that using positive affirmations impacts brain pathways, increasing activity in the areas of the mind responsible for self-worth, self-regulation, and core values. Researchers believe that making a regular practice of saying affirming statements can effectively shift your focus from negative emotions or stressors to your own expansive capacity to cope, bolstering your confidence and bringing you new ideas, strategies, energy, and hope for the future.
Write Your Own
The beauty of positive affirmations is that you can write your own to use whenever you like. They can be said out loud or silently in your head, quietly whispered to yourself, or written down. In lieu of writing your own, you can also use one you have read or heard elsewhere. If it makes you feel strong, positive, and hopeful, then you're on the right track.
Remember, your affirmation should be in the present tense, as if what you wish to happen is already occurring. For example, someone who is worried about coping with childbirth might say, "I am strong." A person who is trying to get pregnant and having difficulty might say, "I am a good parent to my child."
This person might decide to repeat the affirmation every morning as a reminder of their goal and to foster their hope for this desired outcome. During infertility treatments, they might visualize this affirmation while undergoing procedures and tests, as well. During pregnancy, daily pregnancy affirmations may serve to enhance the mother's bond to their growing baby while also alleviating the worry that something might go wrong.
How to Do It
Anything that speaks to you can work as an affirmation. If you're unsure, brainstorm statements that connect to the feelings, values, and intentions you want to affirm. If you have a specific worry or negative thought that keeps coming to mind, try flipping it around to a positive one.
If you catch yourself thinking, "I can't do this," counter that with, "I can do this." "Childbirth is scary" becomes "childbirth is beautiful." Simple is good. Setting your positive intention can literally change your mind.
To help you get started writing your own affirmations, consider beginning with phrases like the following:
By MGH Center for Women's Mental Health | June 10th, 2021
"When we meet with women for perinatal psychiatry consultations, we now ask about vaccinations. It’s not something we typically do, but after the last year, we are now getting involved in their decisions regarding vaccination against COVID-19. Just as we counsel women to avoid alcohol and to consistently take their prenatal vitamins, providing information on the COVID-19 vaccine is an important aspect of promoting the health of pregnant and postpartum women.
Considering a growing body of evidence indicating that pregnant women are more likely to have certain manifestations of severe COVID-19 illness, including admission to the ICU and mechanical ventilation, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has urged the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to include pregnant and lactating women in the high-priority populations for COVID-19 vaccine allocation. ACOG clearly states that all pregnant and lactating people should be allowed to receive the vaccine, and that their decision to do so should be based on a careful discussion of risks and benefits with their healthcare provider.
From our vantage point, there are other benefits to the COVID-19 vaccine. During the past year, before the vaccination was available, we watched as pregnant and postpartum patients undertook the most extreme forms of lockdown. Many of these women were literally housebound: never leaving the house and cutting off contact with friends and family, while at the same time taking on more childcare responsibilities as outside care providers and day care centers were no longer available. And all the while wondering what would happen if they or a member of their family felt ill?
We are yet to fully appreciate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on perinatal women, but preliminary studies indicate that during the lockdown, pregnant and postpartum women reported higher levels of stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. And this is not really a surprise. So many of the things we typically recommend to reduce stress and social isolation, such as exercising regularly or spending time with friends and family, vanished.
While it might seem like the pandemic is fading into the distance, the resurgence of the pandemic in places like India and Brazil where immunization rates are low, we cannot be so sure about this. So far the most successful way to avoid becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.
A recent article in Medscape, however, suggests that mothers appear to be less likely to get vaccinated than others in the general population. According to a recent poll from Morning Consult, about two-thirds of adults in the US have either already been vaccinated against COVID-19 or plan to do so. In contrast, mothers are the most likely to be hesitant about the vaccine. In this study, 51% of the mothers reported that they are unwilling to get vaccinated or are uncertain about getting vaccinated, at 51% (compared to 32% of other women and 29% of fathers)."
By familydoctor.org editorial staff.
"The amount of sleep you get while you’re pregnant not only affects you and your baby, but could impact your labor and delivery as well. Lack of sleep during pregnancy has been tied to a number of complications, including preeclampsia (a serious condition that affects your blood pressure and kidneys). This condition could result in pre-mature birth. Now is the time to take sleep seriously.When you become pregnant, one of the first symptoms you may notice is being overwhelmingly tired, even exhausted. Sleep will be irresistible to you. You can most likely blame your changing hormones for this, especially the extra progesterone that comes with being pregnant. In the beginning, pregnancy also lowers your blood pressure and blood sugar, which can make you feel tired.
Shortly after the first trimester, your energy should return. Sometime during the third trimester, you’ll begin to feel tired again. Some of this feeling can be blamed on the sheer physical exhaustion that comes from growing a baby and the stress that it puts on your body. However, your weariness during this time is in direct relation to your inability to get a good night’s sleep.
Even if you’ve never had trouble sleeping before, you may find it much more difficult while you’re pregnant.
Path to improved health
Sleep should never be seen as a luxury. It’s a necessity — especially when you’re pregnant.
In fact, women who are pregnant need a few more hours of sleep each night or should supplement nighttime sleep with naps during the day, according to the National Institutes of Health.
For many pregnant women, getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night becomes more difficult the farther along they are in their pregnancy. There are many physical and emotional obstacles to sleep in this stage. Anxiety about being a mom or about adding to your family can keep you awake. Fear of the unknown or about the delivery can cause insomnia. Plus, there is the getting up every few hours to go to the bathroom. It also can be difficult to find a comfortable position in bed, especially if you are a former stomach sleeper.
If any of the following is keeping you awake at night, try these strategies for getting a good night’s sleep.
At some point in their pregnancy, most pregnant women suffer from heartburn, which is a form of indigestion that feels like burning in your chest and throat. Heartburn can wake you up in the middle of the night and ruin a good sleep. Minimize the chance for this by avoiding spicy foods. Also, cut down on rich foods for dinner.
Restless leg syndrome
Few things are more distracting than restless legs syndrome (RLS), especially when you are trying to go to sleep. While you can’t take traditional RLS medicines when you are pregnant, you can try to reduce the feelings of RLS with a good prenatal vitamin that includes folate and iron.
Morning sickness — at bedtime
Despite the name, morning sickness can occur any time and is often worse later in the day. Try eating a few crackers at bedtime and keep a stash in your nightstand in case a wave of nausea hits as you are trying to go to sleep.
There are many ways insomnia can creep in and compromise your sleep time. Often, it’s just about being able to shut down your brain. Most medicines for insomnia should not be taken while you are pregnant. Instead, try journaling some of the things you are anxious about. Write down what is stressing you and try to let it go as you go to sleep. Also, stop drinking caffeine by early afternoon. Try not to take long naps during the day. Doing any — or all — of these things can help ease you back into sleep at a reasonable bedtime.
Not many things can wake you as quickly and painfully as a leg cramp. Sometimes called a charley horse, these cramps are usually a contraction of your calf muscle. Less frequently, they can occur in your thigh or your foot. These can plague you in pregnancy because of a lack of minerals, especially calcium and magnesium. They also are more common if you are dehydrated. To guard against leg cramps, make sure that you continue to take your prenatal vitamin and drink plenty of water and other fluids during the day.
Finding a comfortable position
As your body grows, sleep becomes a little harder to come by, especially in the third trimester. It’s difficult to get comfortable. It’s harder to move around and shift positions in bed. If you’ve been a stomach or back sleeper, it can be hard to adjust to sleeping on your side. The best position to sleep in when you’re pregnant is on your left side. This improves blood flow and, therefore, nutrient flow to your baby. Try lying on your left side, knees bent with a pillow between your knees. It also helps to tuck a pillow under your stomach, as well, for extra support.
Frequent bathroom breaks
With the baby pushing down on your bladder, you likely can’t make it all night without waking at least once to go to the bathroom. You can help minimize nighttime bathroom trips by cutting down on how much you drink in the evenings. Just be sure to get adequate hydration during the day. Bright lights can make it harder for you to fall back asleep, so use nightlights so that you will not need to turn on the lights when you get up to go to the bathroom.
In addition to minimizing the common obstacles to getting a good night’s sleep, there are also ways to encourage good sleep habits. This is called good sleep hygiene.
Things to consider
Sleep is essential to health. Lack of sleep is associated with many chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, and even heart disease. If you’re pregnant, not getting an adequate amount of sleep can put you at risk for some serious conditions. Lack of sleep can also complicate your delivery.
In one research study, pregnant women who slept less than six hours at night late in pregnancy had longer labors and were more likely to have cesarean deliveries.
Another study reports that the sleep you get in your first trimester can affect your health in the third trimester. Women who don’t get enough sleep (less than five hours per night) in the first trimester are nearly 10 times more likely to develop preeclampsia late in pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a condition associated with pregnancy-related high blood pressure, swelling of hands and feet, and protein in urine.
If you’ve ever had a sleep disorder, it could be made worse by pregnancy. If you’ve had sleep apnea in the past, your snoring may get worse during pregnancy. This is especially true if you were already overweight when you became pregnant. Expect that RLS will worsen during this time. Heartburn will intensify, too."
"For a new mom-to-be, experiencing sleep deprivation after the baby is born is a given. But you probably didn’t realize that it could also occur during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Most women experience sleep problems during pregnancy. Pregnant women tend to get more sleep during their first trimesters (hello, early bedtime) but experience a big drop in the quality of their sleep. It turns out that pregnancy can make you feel exhausted all day long. It can also cause insomnia at night.
Here are some of the most common culprits for insomnia during early pregnancy, plus a few tips to help you get a better night’s sleep.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia means you have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Women can experience insomnia during all stages of pregnancy, but it tends to be more common in the first and third trimesters. Between midnight bathroom breaks, out-of-control hormones, and pregnancy woes such as congestion and heartburn, you might be spending more time out of your bed than in it. The good news: While insomnia might be miserable, it’s not harmful to your baby.
Sheer logistics play a role as well. By the end of a pregnancy, many women have a hard time just getting comfortable enough to sleep well. During the first trimester, you might not have much of a baby belly to accommodate, but there are other issues that can prevent a good night’s sleep.
What causes insomnia during pregnancy?
Expecting? There are many reasons you might be wide awake in the wee hours. These can include:
It can be difficult to distract yourself from these thoughts, but try to remember that worrying isn’t productive. Instead, try writing down all of your concerns on paper. This will give you a chance to consider possible solutions. If there are no solutions, or there is nothing you can do, turn the page in your journal and focus on another worry. This can help empty your mind so you can rest.
Being up front with your partner about your feelings and worries can also help you feel better.
Develop a bedtime routine
One of the best things you can do to manage insomnia while you’re pregnant is to set up good sleep habits.
Begin by trying to go to bed at the same time every night. Start your routine with something relaxing to help you unwind.
Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed. Blue light from the TV, your mobile phone, or tablet can have an impact on your body’s circadian rhythm. Try reading a book instead.
Taking a soothing bath might also make you sleepy. Just be careful that the temperature isn’t too hot — that can be dangerous for your developing baby. This is especially true during early pregnancy.
To be safe, avoid hot tubs.
Diet and exercise
Diet and exercise can have an impact on your sleep.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but minimize drinking after 7 p.m. Try to avoid caffeine starting in the late afternoon.
Eat to sleep
Eat a healthy dinner, but try to enjoy it slowly to reduce your chances of heartburn. Eating an early dinner can also help, but don’t go to bed hungry. Eat a light snack if you need to eat something late in the evening. Something high in protein can keep your blood sugar levels steady through the night. A warm glass of milk can help you feel sleepy, too."