“The Baby Blues”

Q: How many woman are affected by mood disturbances after giving birth?

A: About 80% of women experience some sort of mood disturbance after giving birth.

You have just given birth to a beautiful little baby but for some reason you feel different than you thought.  You feel upset, alone, afraid, or unloving towards your baby, and feel guilt because of it.  For all of you who think you are alone-you’re not.  80% of women experience these same feelings because of the hormonal imbalance that occurs after pregnancy.  For most of you these feelings are mild and will go away on their own.  Unfortunately about half of women will develop “the baby blues” and another 10-20% will develop postpartum depression.

The Baby Blues (defined by e medicine health)-

“A common temporary psychological state right after childbirth when a new mother may have sudden mood swings, feeling very happy, then very sad, cry for no apparent reason, feel impatient, unusually irritable, restless, anxious, lonely and sad. The baby blues may last only a few hours or as long as 1 to 2 weeks after delivery. The baby blues in this sense are less severe than a postpartum depression. The baby blues do not always require treatment from a health care provider. Often, joining a support group of new mothers or talking with other mothers helps.”

Signs that you may have “the baby blues” include:

  • Feelings of emotion that peak 3-5 days after delivery and last from several days to 2 weeks.
  • Crying more easily than usual, trouble sleeping, or feeling irritable, sad, and “on edge” emotionally.

Developing the baby blues is not related to a previous mental illness nor is it caused by stress.  However, stress and a history of depression may influence whether the blues go on to become major depression.  Also baby blues are so common and expected they are not considered an illness nor do they interfere with a mother’s ability to take care of her child.  This is not the case with postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression occurs with 10-20% of women and happens soon after birth (within a couple months after delivery). Some of the signs of postpartum depression are:

  • Depressed mood, tearfulness, inability to enjoy pleasurable activities, trouble sleeping, fatigue, appetite problems, suicidal thoughts, feelings of inadequacy as a parent, impaired concentration.
  • Risk factors include previous major depression, psychosocial stress, inadequate social support, and previous premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
  • You may worry about the baby’s health and well-being.  You also may have negative thoughts about the baby and fears about harming the infant.

Postpartum depression does interfere with a woman’s ability to care for her baby.  If you have these symptoms, and feel you have postpartum depression, talk to your doctor about what type of medication would be best for you (counseling and support groups are usually all that is needed).

The most rare and serious postpartum disorder is postpartum (puerperal) psychosis and requires immediate medical help and treatment.  This disorder causes serious depression and thoughts of severely hurting your baby.  Once again seek medical help immediately if you recognize this in yourself or in your significant other.

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Breastfeeding

Q: Which is better, breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?

A: Breastfeeding is ultimately better for your baby.

Some believe that bottled formula for your infant is equal to breast milk.  This is not true.  There are many benefits that come from breastfeeding, that can’t come from formulas, such as:

  • Infection-fighting-antibodies are passed form mother to infant and help to lower the occurrence of: ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections, and meningitis.  Breast milk also helps to protect against-allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Nutrition and ease of digestion-It is often called the “perfect food.”
  • Naturally contains vitamins and minerals (except vitamin D)
  • FREE
  • Convenience
  • Smarter babies-studies suggest that children who were breastfed have slightly higher IQ’s.
  • “Skin-to-skin” contact-nursing your own child allows for close bonding.  It also enhances the emotional connection between mother and infant.
  • Beneficial for you, too- breastfeeding burns calories and helps to shrink the uterus, so nursing moms can quickly get back to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight.  Also studies show that breastfeeding helps to lower the risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and also decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.

Experts believe that breast milk is the most nutritious choice for women but that does not necessarily mean it is right for you.  This may be because you have a job and find it difficult to pump your breast milk, don’t have the time, a medical condition, or just plain discomfort.  Whatever the reason it is your personal decision that should not be swayed by others.

To see more advantages and disadvantages of bottle-feeding please click here.

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Drugs or Natural?

Q: Which is better, a drugged or a natural childbirth?

A: Both are good choices but a drugged birth does have some potential risks.

Whether to have a natural or a drugged childbirth is a common question among women.  What women need to know is that both are completely acceptable.  Although some risk is involved with an epidural, or a drugged pregnancy, no side effect they have found will permanently harm your baby.  The most common side effect is the baby’s inability to “latch on” for breastfeeding after birth.  Other side effects may lead the mother to have a cesarean delivery.

My mother is the mother of five children and she was able to experience all three different types of birth: natural, drugged, and cesarean.  In my mother’s opinion her very best birth was her first, which was all natural.  Although she said the pain was immense, the after feeling of delivery was exhilarating.  She said she felt so good that she wanted to get up and a marathon.  Her other births were not so enjoyable.  My mom had to have a cesarean birth with my twin sister and me (we were 2 months early).  Her next two children were drugged deliveries.  For her first epidural she said it was fantastic all the way until the “real” pain of labor came.  For some reason her epidural gave out and her body was suddenly filled with the immense pains of labor.  She also said that she felt groggy afterwards- nothing like the feeling from her first birth.  With her last child, my little brother, she also decided to have an epidural.  This time only the right side of her body was numb while the left side was taking on all the pain.  Needless to say this would not be the most comfortable of situations.

Whether natural or drugged you need to remember that every individual reacts differently to birth.  Some women have to have an epidural to get through while others have a high pain tolerance and can experience a natural birth.  Your responsibility to listen to your body and not to be opposed to either solution.  You never know how your mind might change once the pain comes.

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Exercising During Pregnancy

Q: Are their benefits to exercising during pregnancy?

A: Yes, exercising can help you in many ways while pregnant.

There are many types of exercise that are manageable during pregnancy.  Some of these include swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, step or elliptical machines, and low-impact aerobics (taught by a certified aerobics instructor).  These activities: have a low risk of injury, benefit your entire body, and can be performed all the way until birth.

Other benefits also come from exercising during pregnancy.

  • Boosts your energy-exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system, so you don’t get tired as easily.
  • Sleep better-working out will help to eliminate excess energy and allow you to have a deeper and more peaceful sleep.
  • Reduce pregnancy discomfort-regular exercise will help to stretch and strengthen your body.  Stretching helps with your back pain, walking improves your circulation, and swimming can help strengthen your abdominal muscles.
  • Prepare for childbirth-the more in shape you are the more likely you will have increased ease and a shorter labor come deliver time.
  • Reduce stress and lift your spirits-Exercising boosts levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that helps to put you in a better mood.
  • Improve your self-image
  • Get your body back faster after childbirth

Workouts that require balance or constant change of direction should be avoided, especially later in pregnancy.  Other exercises that need to be avoided include:

  • Holding your breath during any activity
  • Activities where falling is likely (such as skiing and horseback riding)
  • Contact sports
  • Any exercise that could cause mild abdominal trauma (jarring motion or rapid changes in direction)
  • Activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing, or running
  • And more

Before you start exercising you should talk to your doctor to make sure that any medical conditions you may have will not harm you or your baby while exercising.  Also remember to drink plenty of fluids, keep yourself cool (early morning or evening exercise) and listen to your body.  Overdoing it could be dangerous to you and your baby’s health.

(More health benefits were posted earlier and are in the section “Preparing.”)

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Do I Look Fat?

Q: How much weight gain should I expect?

A: It depends.

Gaining weight is part of pregnancy and not all women are the same.  Depending on how much you previously weighed, in comparison with your height, will equal the amount you need to gain.  The relationship between your weight and height is called your “body mass index” or BMI. Calculate your BMI here.

For instance, average women need to gain between 25 to 35 pounds (a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) while underweight women should gain 28 to 40 pounds (a BMI below 18.5) .   Overweight women, on the other hand, only need to gain 15 to 25 pounds (a BMI of 25 to 29.9) during pregnancy.  Obese women also need to gain little weight-11 to 20 pounds (a BMI of 30 or higher).  This can be accomplished by increasing your calorie intake by 100 to 300 more calories per day.  Also you should talk to your doctor about how much weight you should be gaining during pregnancy.

One question I personally had is where does all the weight go?  WebMD tells us that the weight is distributed into these specific areas:

Baby: 8 pounds

Placenta: 2-3 pounds

Amniotic fluid: 2-3 pounds

Breast tissue: 2-3 pounds

Blood supply: 4 pounds

Fat stores for delivery/breastfeeding: 5-9 pounds

Uterus increase: 2-5 pounds

Total: 25-35 pounds

Moral of the story: every pound you gain is needed, so enjoy eating a few more calories!

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Doctor Visits

Q: Are doctor visits optional?

A: No.  They are very important to ensure your baby is staying healthy.

Being prepared before your doctor visits always makes for a more enjoyable experience.  Some ways you can prepare for your first prenatal visit is to be able to answer these questions:

  • Gynecological health details (first day of your last period)
  • Your medical history (including direct family, drug allergies, psychiatric problems, etc.)
  • Habits that could have an impact on your pregnancy (drinking, smoking, etc.)

During your first visit you can also expect a physical exam and many prenatal tests.  These tests include:

  • Urinalysis-urine test screening for protein and glucose.
  • Pap smear-checks for cancerous conditions in genital tract.
  • Blood test-checks for anemia, infection, Rhesus (RH) factor, sexually transmitted diseases, and Hepatitis B.
  • Culture-examines tissues for infection.

After the first visit your doctor will give you a schedule of appointments to follow throughout your pregnancy.  This list is usually scheduled as follows:

  • Every 4 weeks from 4 to 28 weeks
  • Every 2 weeks from 28 to 36 weeks
  • Every week after 36 weeks till delivery

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What to Avoid

Q: Are there any foods or substances that will harm my baby?

A: Absolutely. There are many harmful substances that you need to be aware of.

Many foods and substances should be strictly avoided while pregnant.  Some of them include:

  • Raw meat-may contain bacteria, Toxoplasmosis, and Salmonella. All of these are harmful to your unborn baby.
  • Deli meats-could contain Listeria, which is a harmful bacteria that has also been known to cause miscarriages and stillborn deliveries.
  • Imported/Unpasteurized soft cheeses-may contain Listeria. Examples: Brie, blue cheese, or Camembert.
  • Undercooked eggs-may contain Salmonella.
  • Fish-these types should be avoided: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, excess tuna, shell fish, and tile fish.  These contain high levels of mercury and will affect the baby’s nervous system.
  • Caffeine-some caffeine is ok but for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy it should be completely avoided and used occasionally after that (max 300 mg per day).  Consumption is linked to birth defects and increased risk of miscarriages.
  • ALCOHOL- There is no amount of alcohol that has been proven safe to consume during pregnancy and it should be completely avoided while: trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding.   If alcohol consumption does occur it can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or other developmental disorders.  Some of these disorders include mental retardation, problems with the central nervous system, and trouble remembering and/or learning.

Some assume that a little alcohol is ok to consume while pregnant:  a cup of wine at dinner, one beer after a stressful day, or maybe a glass of Champaign at your friends wedding.  Any amount of alcohol can lead to FAS and once it happens there is no cure-FAS lasts for a lifetime.

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