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10 Risk Factors of Preterm Labor

preterm labor__1456607450_162.206.228.38Among the list of worries for expectant moms is usually preterm labor.  Preterm labor is when a mother goes into labor prematurely before her 37th week of pregnancy.  Having a baby too early may mean the baby is not fully developed in several key areas and may lead to birth defects, physical abnormalities (such as heart defects, respiratory problems or underdeveloped organs), mental impairments or behavioral problems in infants and children.  Preterm labor occurs in approximately 12% of pregnancies.  Some causes of preterm labor are known, while others remain a mystery.  However, there are some factors that put moms and babies more at risk.

Today are looking at 10 risk factors of preterm labor:

1 – Pregnant with Multiples

Women giving birth to two or more babies are highly likely to deliver early.  OBs often schedule c-sections for moms of multiples but sometimes mothers go into labor on their own prior to 37 weeks.

2 – Unhealthy Weight during Pregnancy

Moms-to-be who are either underweight or overweight during pregnancy have higher rates of preterm labor.  Being underweight may mean the baby is not getting proper nutrients.  Being overweight can put added strain on the baby as well as the mother’s body.  The recommended weight gain for a single pregnancy is 25-35 lbs.

3 – Abnormalities or Infections in the Lower Abdomen

If the cervix, uterus or vagina are compromised, risk of preterm labor is increased.  Also, bladder, vaginal or kidney infections or STDs can have the same effect.  Mothers who have regular OB check-ups during pregnancy will be aware of these risk factors so they can be monitored closely.

4 – Smoking, Drinking and Drug Abuse

Expectant mothers who drink, smoke and use drugs during pregnancy are putting their babies at extreme risk, not only of preterm labor, but also many other substance abuse related birth defects.

5 – Chronic or Severe Short Term Illness

Women suffering from diabetes – even gestational diabetes – clotting disorders, high blood pressure, kidney disease or other chronic illnesses may be prone to preterm labor.  Also, if a mother gets sick and has a fever higher than 101 degrees F, she is at risk of preterm labor.

6 – Short Time Span between Pregnancies

A repeat pregnancy within six to nine months of giving birth puts moms at increased risk of preterm labor.  Pregnancy creates a great strain on the body and it needs time to recuperate after childbirth.  Having babies too close together can cause complications.

7 – Previous Preterm Labor

Mothers who have had previous preterm labor are highly more likely to go into preterm labor again.  Usually the preterm labor occurs at approximately the same week as prior preterm labors.  Additionally, preterm labor may be hereditary. A family predisposition for preterm labor, especially if the mother herself was born prematurely, should be flagged as a risk factor.

8 – Lack of Prenatal Care

Taking care of both mother and baby during pregnancy is vital to the health of both parties.  Prenatal care including proper nutrition, prenatal vitamins, a healthy living environment, emotional support and regular OB check-ups can help prevent preterm labor.

9 – Stress

Women who experience intense stress during pregnancy can go into premature labor.  Stress has a physiological impact on the body.  During pregnancy, stress hormones can trigger early labor and can be highly dangerous for babies.

10 – Physical Strain

Standing for too long, performing highly physical jobs, lifting heavy objects or over-exercising can lead to preterm labor.  While some exercise is recommended during pregnancy, too much physical strain can have harmful side-effects.

Know these causes of preterm labor to monitor inherent risk factors and avoid controllable risks.

The Benefits of Acupuncture for Fertility and Pregnancy Symptoms

acupuncture__1456607606_162.206.228.38Many women look beyond traditional medicine and standard practices when faced with challenging fertility issues or severe pregnancy symptoms.  One method that has produced sound results is acupuncture.  In fact, many fertility specialists and OBGYNs recommend acupuncture as a supplemental treatment.  For some women, the benefits of acupuncture for fertility and pregnancy symptoms are quite amazing.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice of placing very fine, sterilized needles in the body at certain points that help the body function properly.  The exact points where the needles are placed are known paths or meridians that link the interior and exterior of the human body.  When even this light pressure is placed in these areas, many bodies respond in amazing ways.  Even though acupuncture uses needles, it should not hurt and there are very little risks associated with the practice.

The Benefits of Acupuncture for Fertility

While acupuncture is not a fail-proof way to get pregnant, many hopeful women use it to help with certain fertility issues.  Acupuncture is known to help regulate the thyroid, which is an essential part of the endocrine system that releases hormones.  Infertility is sometimes a result of hormonal imbalances, especially estrogen.  Additionally, acupuncture increases blood flow throughout the body making the uterus a more sustainable environment to conceive and can correct spasmed tubes.

When using acupuncture for fertility purposes, experts recommend starting treatment several months prior to trying to conceive.  Giving the body time to regulate and improve can make getting pregnant easier, especially when attempting in-vitro fertilization or insemination.  Acupuncture can continue well into pregnancy but is recommended for at least the first trimester since most miscarriages occur during that phase.

The Benefits of Acupuncture for Pregnancy Symptoms

Moms-to-be who are experiencing adverse pregnancy symptoms often turn to acupuncture for relief.  In fact, whether or not a mom has a tough pregnancy, there are many benefits of acupuncture while pregnant.  Acupuncture increases blood flow, giving pregnant women more energy.  This also helps nourish babies by more effectively delivering nutrients through the umbilical cord, which in turn boosts the baby’s immune system.  Acupuncture helps alleviate many side-effects of pregnancy too, such as nausea, indigestion, hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, edema and back pain.

In a way, acupuncture is also relaxation therapy for mothers.  Stress during pregnancy can greatly affect babies and moms-to-be.  Acupuncture calms the nervous system to ease some of the stress and anxiety that many expectant mothers experience.

The benefits of acupuncture extend to labor, delivery and postpartum care as well.  Women who receive acupuncture treatment typically have fewer miscarriages, preterm labor and tend to deliver on time.  After delivery, acupuncture can encourage a healthy milk supply, reduce incidence of postpartum depression, help mothers recover from childbirth and regulate the digestive tract after giving birth.

Acupuncture Safety

Acupuncture is a licensed profession in many states in the U.S.  When seeking treatment, it’s important to find someone who is licensed and board-certified, as well as someone who specializes in reproduction, fertility or pregnancy acupuncture.  There are certain areas to avoid when trying to conceive or when already pregnant, including the lower abdomen, gallbladder, bladder, spleen and intestines.  Most fertility experts and OBGYNs can recommend an appropriate acupuncturist to meet their patients’ needs.  Acupuncture usually works best when combined with herbal and traditional medications and treatments.

What Kids Perceive about Marriage from their Parents

You may think that your marriage is just between you and your spouse.  If you have kids, studies show that the way that you conduct your marriage is very much a family matter.  What kids perceive about marriage from their parents starts at a very young age.  Children pick up on many small details that parents may not even realize.  That’s why working hard to have a happy marriage and modeling a healthy relationship are important for children’s holistic health as well as encouraging them to have good marriages in the future.

Most of us know by now, marriage is hard and it takes work and dedication.  Two individuals forming a lifelong team, no matter how similar or different, no matter how much in love, no matter what their history may be, is difficult.  There is no doubt about it, most marriages are met by periods of strife and discord.  Some of these are irreversible and end in divorce or prolonged unhappy marriages.  Others find rocky moments to be just a bump in an otherwise happy road.  However it works out in your marriage, know that your children are keenly aware of how mommy and daddy act towards one another, from what they say, to their intimate connection, to how they spend time together.

Beautiful smiling happy family enjoy

Research shows that gender roles and how familial responsibilities are divided are far less influential on the long term psyche of children than the quality of their parents’ marriage.  That is to say, what kids perceive about marriage from their parents is based on how their moms and dads behave towards one another.  It’s known as modeling.

When children see their parents working together as a team – cooking dinner, completing a project, holding hands or showing other forms of affection, planning a vacation, or simply getting everything ready to leave the house for an outing – parents are modeling a healthy relationship.  Words matter too, of course.  Shouting, speaking unkindly and constant bickering makes an impression on children.  However it’s the actions that speak the loudest when it comes to what kids perceive about marriage from their parents.

Modeling a strong marriage also includes being present when sharing with one another, finding work/life balance, respecting each other’s thoughts and opinions, spending quality time with one another and resolving conflicts.  It’s unreasonable to think that parents won’t ever disagree in front of their children.  But problem-solving and conflict resolution are tremendous opportunities to model positive behavior for our children.

According to Psychology Today, it’s also crucial to discuss marriage with your kids.  At a young age this may just mean that you tell your kids how much mommy loves daddy and how their love together makes your family operate.  As your children get older you can talk about the advantages of having a lifelong companion to share the good and the bad.  You can also discuss the fact that everyone will have arguments, especially when you share your lives the way moms and dads do.  But with love, hard work and perseverance, you can overcome the hurdles.

Your children are constantly drawing conclusions from modeling.  If you model a healthy, positive relationship, your children have a better chance at good physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing, as well as an understanding of a strong marriage for their own future.

Prenatal Yoga vs. Regular Yoga

Exercise is usually encouraged during pregnancy and prenatal yoga is a great way to satisfy your need for physical activity while reaping many other benefits as well.  Prenatal yoga is not just a yoga class full of pregnant women, but rather the poses presented by a well-trained instructor are somewhat different and tailored to the physique and specific needs of moms-to-be.

prenatal yoga__1455555465_108.89.137.58Prenatal yoga focuses on several key areas of the body.  One of the most important is the back, particularly the lower back, which is strained as a baby gets heavier and expectant moms have to use back strength to support their growing bellies.  Pregnant women find that their center of gravity is constantly adjusting with their evolving bumps.  This is why many moms-to-be lose their balance easier or find their own movements clumsier than usual.  Building the muscles of the low back and lengthening them will help support the added weight of the baby and may also make labor easier.  Many women find that labor begins in their back and when they are already experiencing low back pain, labor can be considerably harder.  A stronger back going into labor can relieve some discomfort.

Additional areas of concentration in prenatal yoga are the hips, pelvic floor, muscles between the ribs and overall better circulation.  Stretching and opening the hips not only alleviates some of the pressure that occurs in this region during pregnancy, it also helps prepare you for labor and delivery.  If you plan to deliver vaginally, you’re going to appreciate strong hips and the ability to control your pelvic floor.  This makes pushing during contractions easier and helps regain form and muscle control postpartum.

Strengthening the muscles between the ribs can help combat the body’s natural response to heavier breasts, which is to hunch the shoulders inward.  As this happens, breathing can become labored and uncomfortable.  And yoga is an excellent form of activity to increase circulation, which is incredibly important since pregnant women have approximately 50% more blood in their bodies to support a growing baby.  Good circulation keeps the baby fed and oxygenated and helps prevent pregnancy edema.

Prenatal yoga instructors are specifically trained to teach poses that compliment, strengthen and lengthen a pregnant woman’s body.  Prenatal yoga tends to use a lot of props to support the body in performing poses, especially as women progress throughout their pregnancies.  Of course there are certain poses and positions that prenatal yoga instructors know to avoid altogether, such as twisting, lying on the back for a long period of time, bending forward or lying on the stomach.

Some women who are very experienced in yoga debate whether to continue with their regular yoga practice and modifying moves, versus taking prenatal yoga classes that may feel too easy.  This is a personal decision.  Regular yoga instructors may be willing to help serious yogis modify their practice within a regular class, especially towards the beginning of a pregnancy when expectant moms are able to do more.  However, as the pregnancy progresses, it may be wise to switch to an advanced prenatal yoga class designed for the needs of a pregnant woman’s body.

Like regular yoga, prenatal yoga is a wonderful practice that can help center your body and mind during an exciting and somewhat anxious time in your life.  Yoga helps develop pain management and coping techniques as well as breathing patterns and mantras that may be helpful during childbirth.  Prenatal yoga also gives pregnant women as sense of community and can lead to friendships with women in your area whose babies will be born around the same time as yours.

We hope you find strength, relief and peace in your prenatal yoga practice.  Namaste!

How to Stay Calm during a Child’s Tantrum

It’s inevitable: kids are going to have tantrums.  Even the best kids and the best parenting are not going to allow you to avoid this normal part of early childhood.  Some find tantrums worst during the “terrible twos,” while other kids experience them earlier or later than that stage.  Managing a tantrum may have as much to do with your own behavior as that of your child.  Today we’re looking at how to stay calm during a child’s tantrum to avoid major parenting landmines, future outbursts and scaring both you and your child.

tantrums__1455555246_108.89.137.58Here’s the scenario:  You feel your child’s tantrum coming on.  Maybe he’s not gotten enough sleep; maybe it’s been an emotional day; maybe he’s just in a bad mood.  Whatever the reason, you can’t change it at this very moment and you feel your blood start to boil over your child’s escalating outburst.  This is the time to start your “I can handle this tantrum” routine by recognizing that you are getting angry.

All too often parents don’t realize how angry they are until they say or do something they regret.  This is not the way you want to model anger management to a child who is exploding.  Rather, you need to slow yourself and rein back the aggression.  It’s not that you shouldn’t feel angry.  Anger is a natural reaction.  It’s what you do with the anger that matters.

As soon as you recognize your feelings, stop yourself.  Even if you have begun to unleash your anger, just freeze.  Use this time to re-center yourself.  Walk away for a few minutes if you can do so safely.  Take deep breaths.  Remind yourself that your child is a child and not the enemy.  Think about why your child may be acting out and why you may be agitated to the extreme.  Sometimes it has nothing to do with the actual problem at hand.  When you have collected yourself, return to your child and speak in a calm and soft tone.  Use kind words to let your child know that you are there for her and love her no matter what.  Your child may not like that you went away, which could be an incentive not to behave this way in the future.  Or it may make her even madder.  Either way, it is a good decision to ground yourself and not contribute to the storm.

Always be the bigger person in the situation because, well, you are the adult after all.  Apologize for your contribution to the tantrum and for getting angry if you did.  Your child may be stunned by your offer of an apology, which may be just enough for her to snap out of her explosive state.  Never try to reason with your child in the heat of the tantrum.  Rather, wait until you have both calmed down and then try to discuss it.  Kids are often irrational so you may never fully understand the cause of the outburst, but at least you can explain why it was unacceptable to react that way.  Hopefully a lesson sinks in for your child and the entire ordeal can be a learning experience.

It should be a learning experience for you too.  Learning how to stay calm during a child’s tantrum is hard work.  It will take practice, effort and patience.  Some parents are better able to handle tantrums than others based on their own personalities, mindsets and past experiences.  Also remember, what works with one child, may not work with another.  Parenting requires a unique set of skills for each of your children.  Be willing to find what works for your child to ensure less tantrums and happier times.

Left Handed Children: Do you have a lefty?

lefty children__1453481992_108.89.137.58If you are a right-handed person, you probably don’t think twice about how you write, cook, or perform regular hand functions.  When you are a leftie, it takes a bit more work and concentration.  Humans have evolved as a right-handed dominant species.  Even ancient fossils show that our early ancestors were predominantly right handed.  And thus the world tailors to righties.  Everything from kitchen utensils, pens and most school desks, to pant zippers, faucets and instruments are designed for right-handed people.  Today we’re looking at qualities of left handed children and how you can help them grow and thrive using their dominant hand.

Left-handed people make up around 10% of the population.  About one percent of people are truly ambidextrous and the rest are right-handed.  Lefties are twice as likely to be boys as girls and mothers who have their babies over 40 are highly more likely to have left-handed babies.  Babies may show their first signs of left-handedness when they turn their heads a certain direction in response to sound, sights or vibrations.  However, children usually don’t show their true dominance until they are school age.  Until recently, left-handedness was highly discouraged because it seemed abnormal and more difficult.  In some ways that assessment is not wrong, however now psychology tells us not to try to change a person’s predilections of this nature.

The Advantages of Being Left-Handed

Left-handed people are believed to be better at math and architecture, more creative, and tend to pursue creative careers.  Studies show that left-handed college graduates tend to make more money than right-handed counterparts.  In fact, their success is proven in the U.S. government as four of the last seven presidents have been left-handed men.  Lefties tend to be better at multi-tasking and have to become better independent problem-solvers to account for everyday modifications in a right-handed world.  Also, left-handed people are better at certain upper-body and face-to-face sports such as baseball, tennis, golf, boxing and swimming.  This is because they can often surprise their opponents who have less practice against left-handed players.

The Disadvantages of Being Left-Handed

Besides having to adapt to a right-handed world, lefties tend to have certain characteristics that may cause health problems.  As a whole they are more prone to bipoloar disorder and schizophrenia, alcoholism and anger management issues.  They are shy and more likely to scare easily.  Because lefties favor the right hemisphere of the brain rather than the left where language and fine motor skills are controlled, left-handers have more incidences of speech impediments, stuttering and dyslexia, and consider themselves more clumsy.  Those with a left-hand dominance also show increased risk of migraine headaches, insomnia, allergies, asthma and ADHD.

Tips for Parents of Left-Handed Children

The first step in parenting a well-adjusted left-handed child is recognizing the challenges she faces and understanding that her brain works differently.  Often her brain is more flexible because the two hemispheres are constantly having to communicate with one another to make accommodations.  Support your child as much as possible and even verbalize times when you see it is frustrating for her to do something meant for a right-handed person.

Buy supplies that suit your left-handed child and set up spaces that are appropriate for their hand dominance.  This may mean re-orienting a room to match her spatial needs.  Also, buy left-handed scissors, instruments, baseball gloves and whatever else your child may need to pursue their interests.  Don’t let her handedness stand in the way of being successful. Also, research how to teach your child proper sports stances for lefties.  It may be confusing to you because, for instance, what looks like a forehand, is their backhand, and vice versa.

Writing can be especially difficult for lefties. Let them do what comes naturally, even if that is not the traditional way.  As long as writing it legible, it should be fine.  Invest in left-handed pencil grips, triangle shaped pencils and crayons and a great sharpener.  (Sharper writing utensils are easier for left-handed children to use.)

Lastly, give your child lots of praise for the ways in which she is unique.  When left-handedness is at her advantage, point it out to her so she can feel proud.  Help your leftie embrace what is wonderful about her traits.  You can also share the many successful people throughout history who have thrived as left-handers.

Organizations that Support Mothers

mother and sonWe each have our own adventures and challenges with motherhood.  For those moms who are less fortunate and lack resources and support to feed, clothe, educate and provide care for their children, the challenges can be vast.  Fortunately, there are many organizations that support mothers and help provide basic needs to families in critical situations.  Additionally, many organizations that support mothers aim to improve the lives of women to help them rise about barriers to their success and independence.  Here’s a look at some of the top organizations that support mothers and the great work they are doing to advance women:

Feeding America:  This leading hunger-relief organization provides food through food banks and meal services, especially for children.  Their goal is to eradicate hunger in the U.S. by promoting self-reliance.  This national organization has many local food banks where families can get healthy and nutritious food to nourish themselves for a brighter future.  You can volunteer with Feeding America by bagging groceries or serving meals at a local food bank or shelter.

Help a Mother Out:  Diapers are an essential supply for all infants.  When babies sit in soiled diapers, it can lead to health complications for the baby and sometimes spread to the entire family.  Help a Mother Out is an organization that supplies diapers to families who cannot afford them.  Based in California, this group raises funds and takes donations to distribute a healthy stock of diapers for poverty-stricken families.

Global Fund for Women:  With women’s rights at the forefront, Global Fund for Women is an international advocacy group aimed at social justice, equality and the rights of women, especially single mothers.  It matches donors with those seeking grants for women’s rights programs in groups around the world.

Every Mother Counts:  Founded by mother, model and activist Christy Turlington Burns, this organization works to provide vital medical care for childbirth to prevent maternal deaths.  Every Mother Counts operates in many countries and helps give at risk women crucial information about childbirth safety, access to trained medical professionals and transportation to reach facilities that can care for them before and during childbirth.

Mom-Mentum:  This non-profit aims to improve the personal and professional lives of women through support training, professional development and public policy advocacy.  They support an Annual Women’s Leadership Conference and many employee relations initiatives that promote flexibility for working moms to find success in their career and family lives.

Futures without Violence:  Futures without Violence is a support and advocacy group to fight against domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.  They are influential in legislative changes regarding violence and supporting families to end violence in homes and communities.  Their message focuses on respect and positive, healthy relationships as a means to end violence.

MomsRising:  Another mother’s and women’s rights advocacy group, MomsRising works at a grassroots level to affect legislative policy and corporate change.  Their issues include parental leave policies, fair wages for all, toxin-free work environments and flexible work schedules for parents.

As mothers, we can all invoke changes in some way.  Get inspired by these organizations that help women and find your own way to improve the lives of mothers in your community.

How to Avoid Raising Entitled Children

Sassy girl with crossed arms and a disgusted lookAs parents, we have the unique responsibility and great challenge of helping our kids reach their full potential as successful, productive and well-balanced adults.  That’s quite a mighty task, and one that should start in early childhood.  Life lessons as young children are ingrained in our sense of self and carried throughout our lives.  Although kids are inherently “me” centric, there are certain strategies to avoid raising entitled kids.  Here are a few you can employ in your household:

Enforce Rules and Set Boundaries

Many common behavioral problems in children stem from a lack of rules and boundaries in their lives.  While we often hear that “rules are meant to be broken,” when it comes to kids, they need the stability of knowing they should not break rules and when they do, there are consequences.  Children will naturally test the boundaries, which is when it is important for parents to stand their ground.  This means saying “no” often.  It may make you uncomfortable and your child sad.  But parents are not supposed to be their children’s best friends.  If you give in to every request or exception to your own rules, you are teaching your child that rules really are bendable and they can manipulate the system in their favor.  That’s not true in life and should not be true in your relationship with your child.  That’s not to say treats and rewards aren’t warranted, but they should be earned and doled out on special occasions.

Teach Responsibility Early

Showing your kids the value of hard work and team work is a critical part to avoid raising entitled children.  This means that everyone in the home should have responsibilities.  Some call them “chores,” others call them “family contributions.”  Whatever tag you give them, do assign them starting in toddlerhood.  Young children should learn to play their part in familial responsibilities – no free loaders on board.  Increase responsibilities to an age-appropriate level as your children grow older.  If you set high expectations, your kids will likely want to meet them and often exceed them. This sense of hard work and team work will remain with them as they enter the workforce, new relationships and other meaningful activities in their lives.

Don’t Fix Their Problems

As new parents, you are responsible for every aspect of your baby’s life.  You really do have to fix all of their problems.  However, as they become more cognizant of the world around them, it’s time to teach some independence and stop coddling them.  This is a hard lesson for many who follow attachment parenting.  But allowing your kids space to figure things out for themselves will teach them great problem-solving skills for the future.  There will be many scary and challenging situations they must face in their lives.  Practice facing them early by encouraging kids to speak to peers, teachers and others about issues directly, rather than through you.  This form of peaceful resolution can give them great pride and empower them to continue to stand up for themselves with confidence.

Avoid Over-Indulgence

In a world of instant gratification, it’s easy to spoil your children.  This goes for tangible items like toys and video games, and other things like sweets and television time.  Develop a reward system that allows your kids to work towards goals and special rewards.  Life doesn’t owe them anything but working to achieve a desired result is possible.  Be especially aware of how much money you give your kids.  You should not be an open bank, but rather encourage your kids to understand the value of money, saving and how much life costs.  Be strict about allowance when your child is old enough to understand it.  Also, help them save up for something they may really want.

Practice Gratitude

Kids that realize the world is so much bigger than their bubble tend to be less entitled.  Practicing gratitude by pointing out all you have to be thankful for in your lives is a great step in the right direction.  Also, take time for random acts of kindness and give back when possible.  Children who appreciate what they have and learn to help those around them will find more happiness, less stress and maintain a healthier outlook on life.

PMS during Pregnancy: Do you have Pregnancy PMS?

Symptoms of PMS and symptoms of pregnancy are often confused, and sometimes they are not mutually exclusive.  Many symptoms of PMS and pregnancy are the same, which is why some women do not realize they are pregnant until several weeks (or even months) into their pregnancy.  However, sometimes cyclical PMS symptoms still occur during pregnancy, even when periods have subsided.  We’re looking at symptoms of both PMS and pregnancy and why some women experience Pregnancy PMS.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) usually occurs around 7 days before and a few days into a woman’s monthly period.  Up to 90% of women experience some level of PMS symptoms prior to their period.  Cramping, bloating, spotting, sore breasts, irritability, moodiness, headaches, fatigue, weight gain, back pain and change in appetite are all symptoms of PMS.  But guess what?  They are also symptoms of pregnancy.  This is why many women believe they are getting their periods when these may be early signs of pregnancy.  Women who are newly pregnant and are due for their next cycle may have all of their typical PMS symptoms even though they are positively pregnant.

One large clue of whether symptoms are PMS or pregnancy is if they occur outside of the normal premenstrual timeframe.  Also, pregnancy symptoms include nausea and vomiting, skipped periods, and more severe food cravings or aversions.  Usually these are tell tale signs that your symptoms mean you are pregnant, not PMSing.  Also, extreme cramping and spotting are not healthy signs of pregnancy so if you suspect you are pregnant, you should see your doctor right away if those symptoms occur.

pregnant woman with a headache and pain

Experts believe PMS occurs for several reasons.  First, hormones are fluctuating significantly in preparation for your period, which can lead to many unwanted symptoms.  Also, chemicals are shifting in the brain, especially serotonin, which is in part responsible for feelings of happiness and joy.  These changes certainly occur during pregnancy too, especially in early pregnancy, which again leaves some women unsure whether or not they are pregnant.  However, many women feel they have pregnancy PMS, which is when their typical PMS symptoms occur on a monthly basis even when they are positive they are pregnant.

There is no solid evidence that PMS occurs regularly during pregnancy but since typical symptoms of pregnancy and PMS overlap and hormones and brain chemicals are constantly shifting during pregnancy, pregnancy PMS is certainly possible.  To ensure a healthy pregnancy and to manage symptoms of PMS versus pregnancy, it is important to know the levels of severity of symptoms normal for each condition.  Many women treat symptoms of PMS with medication, which is usually not advised during pregnancy.  Also, other recommended lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise may differ for those suffering from PMS versus women who experience pregnancy symptoms.

Even informed women have questions about their menstrual cycles, PMS and pregnancy symptoms.  If in doubt, consult you physician to ensure you are handling your symptoms appropriately for your condition.

Postpartum Depression in Dads

Many people are unaware of a very real type of depression that occurs after a new baby is born into a family.  We’re not talking about postpartum depression that affects mothers after childbirth.  It’s postpartum depression in dads, known as paternal postpartum depression (PPPD) or paternal postnatal depression (PPND).  This type of depression occurs due to a combination of biological and emotional changes taking place in new dads, and can be just as serious as the postpartum depression that new moms experience.

Who is affected by paternal postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is something that is often discussed by healthcare providers and the media alike.  It is triggered by the severe change in hormones new moms experience during pregnancy and immediately following childbirth, coupled with many emotional and lifestyle transformations that occur when a new baby arrives.  Men suffer from paternal dads and postpartum__1453339789_108.89.137.58postpartum depression for many of the same reasons but it is less publicized.  Perhaps the silence is due to men’s societal role as strong, tough and unaffected by emotions.  But as anyone who has experienced emotional or mental illness can attest, keeping it inside is the worst way to handle the problem.

Paternal postpartum depression can begin during pregnancy and extend for years after becoming a father.  A report from the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that 10% of new dads experience this type of depression between early pregnancy and the first six months with their baby.  But 26% of men experience depression between three and six months, which is double the typical rate in men.  Paternal postpartum depression is twice as likely to occur in men whose wives have postpartum depression and is more likely in men who are predisposed to general depression.  Unfortunately many cases of postpartum depression in dads go unreported because men are not forthcoming with their condition.

Why does postpartum depression in dads occur?

Surprisingly, men have hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and after childbirth as well.  No, they are not physically growing a baby inside their bodies, but they are very much part of the emotional experience of having a baby.  Studies show that testosterone lowers and estrogen increases in fathers after the birth of their baby.  Along with these hormone shifts, some fathers develop fears and anxieties over caring for a newborn, especially when the baby is extremely fussy, their marriage is suffering and no one in the household is getting enough sleep.

Dads find themselves asking these questions:  Am I adequate at meeting the immediate needs of my baby?  Why is my baby crying when I’m doing everything I know to do?  Will my life ever be normal again?  Why do I feel so out of control?  Will I ever get to practice my hobbies and see my friends again?  Will my wife love me the same now that she has this new baby in her life?  Can I support my growing family?  Why does this come so easy for my wife and not for me?  Sometimes (and for some, for the first time in their lives) men feel incompetent in their newfound role as a father and the stress overwhelms them to the point of depression.

How to handle postpartum depression in dads?

Doctors and other medical caregivers talk about postpartum depression with new moms but dads are often overlooked.  When dads show signs of paternal postpartum depression, including personality shifts, over-indulgence in vices, panic attacks, becoming a work-a-holic, and loss of interest in previous activities he enjoyed, it’s time to take action.  The best coping strategies include getting help from a professional, whether it is a primary care physician, therapist or someone else with experience in postpartum depression, as well as talking to your spouse and friends and taking care of yourself.  Many men feel more comfortable seeking help anonymously or through online resources like the Sad Daddy website.  Sometimes medication is required to get dads back on track after paternal postpartum depression strikes.

When untreated, paternal postpartum depression can spiral into depression in every aspect of a man’s life.  It can cause major rifts in marriages and disrupt the physical and financial wellbeing of the family.  Additionally, depression affects the way in which a father bonds with his baby.  The early years of life are crucial for connecting with children and setting emotional tones for their future.

It is important for those around men experiencing postpartum depression to encourage their loved one to talk through their feelings, even if it doesn’t come naturally to him.  Just like postpartum depression in women, parental postpartum depression is not his fault and the onset is often uncontrollable.  However, the outcome can be controlled when new dads seek the help they need.

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