Women, Hormones and Mood

Did you know that women experience twice as much depression as men? Would that be because we’re more sensitive? I think not. The explanation which best fits is that we are more affected by hormonal shifts which influence our brain chemistry, particularly around times when our lives change dramatically-like pregnancy and post-birth.

In fact, 1 in 8 women will experience a clinical episode of depression, anxiety, etc. during pregnancy, postpartum and menopause, which is greater than the occurrence of most health conditions. So, what will it take for emotional health to become an integral part of women’s health? Why aren’t women being routinely screened for mood and anxiety conditions? How can health conditions which have such a profound impact on developing families continue to be ignored?

I was having this conversation Friday with a local journalist and told him that women must lead the charge like we’ve done with breast cancer. We must come forward and share our stories to support each other in getting the help we need and deserve. We must be prepared to educate our health providers and make it clear that we expect to be cared for-body, mind, heart and soul. We must challenge our own biases about anxiety and depression, and accept them as “health conditions” just like heart disease or diabetes.

Ghandi said, “Become the change you want to see in the world.”

To learn more about hormones and mood, read Women’s Moods about pregnancy and postpartum, The Wisdom of Menopause, and visit www.womenshealth.gov.

PSI Missouri Supports Moms: Our Turn to Help

Last week, I found out that my first baby and oldest daughter, Jessica, got into residency in general surgery and following much excitement, it made me think back to when she was born 27 years ago this May 18th. When I had Jess, I was already counseling postpartum moms and still decided not to follow my own good advice and got exhausted, emotionally depleted and mildly depressed. What a combo! I was one of the lucky moms though. After 3 months back at work part-time, my depression lifted and I felt myself again but I will never forget the challenge of those first few months.

Long story short, when my younger daughter Rachel was born almost 4 years later, I made my SELF-CARE A PRIORITY and had a great adjustment to new motherhood the second time. Again, I was fortunate and I’ve been a big believer in LIVING SELF-CARE ever since.

Now, it’s my pleasure to give back and raise funding for PSI Missouri and my friend who runs it, Linda Meyer, through “GIRLS NIGHT TO GIVE BACK.” PSI Missouri provides free phone and group support for any mom may be experiencing pregnancy or postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and other emotional health conditions.  I only wish they would have been around when I had my babies.

So, we’re looking for women who want to experience a fun, relaxing and tasty evening on Thursday, April 9 from 5:30-8:30 at Feed Your Vitality, a new cool healthy eating venue at 1821 Cherokee. Click here to go to the e-vite invitation. It promises to be a good time for a good cause and if you can’t join us that night, you can still make a donation to this life-saving group online.

To read more about PPD, click here for Carrie Edelstein’s most excellent article which just came out in St. Louis magazine. To read more about PSI Missouri, click here.

Hope to see you there! Namaste

Postpartum Progress Hosts Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health

mothers-day-rally1On Sunday, May 11th, we’ll be celebrating our 6th annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health here at Postpartum Progress. That day we’ll feature 24 letters to new moms, one posted each hour on the hour, from great writers who’ve been there. They know how it feels. 

Read more…

10 Things a Pregnant Woman Deserves

I stumbled across this article from The Huffington Post and was thrilled to see a husband writing about how to support his wife during her pregnancy! I hope you enjoy this, too.

My wife, Mel, is seven months pregnant with our third child. We’ve been married for almost ten years. Her last two pregnancies were eye-opening for me. Being pregnant is hard on a woman both physically and mentally. It’s something I can’t experience. I can only observe. As a husband, I often feel helpless. Like I’m just some cheerleader on the sidelines, hoping everything turns out OK. I often wish there were some way I could help her more than I do. Some way I can be more supportive. I mean, I can’t carry the baby for her, but there are things I can do to make her experience a little easier.

Below is a list of a few things that I have been doing — or plan to start doing — to help Mel’s pregnancy go easier. However, I’d love to see ideas from readers on how husbands have made pregnancy easier for their wives.

1. Tell her she’s beautiful.
While pregnant, Mel often describes herself as: Fat, bloated, and spotted (near the end of her pregnancy she always develops little red splotches on her face and neck). Obviously she doesn’t feel beautiful while pregnant, even though I still think that she is. She needs constant reassurance. So when she is pregnant, I often make it a point to tell her how beautiful she is (in person and text message).

2. Excitement.
I know that some men, myself included, see a pregnant woman like a ticking time bomb. I mean, I’m excited to have a baby, but the first year of a child’s life can be hell, with all the sleepless nights, spit-up and dirty diapers. This is not to mention the cost of a new baby. But at the same time, it’s very exciting for a woman, and being negative can really depress your wife. I think it’s important to share in that excitement. I am good and bad at this one. I often exhale, loudly, when talking about things we need to buy for the baby. But I also crouch down, talk to the baby, and then kiss Mel’s tummy. I also enjoy feeling the baby kick. I think this really helps her realize that I am excited too.

3. Judgment (lack thereof).
Let’s face it, women act differently while pregnant. Sometimes I joke that the woman I married is not the woman who has been pregnant with my children. The woman I married would never eat an entire loaf of French bread. She also wouldn’t wear bright red compression tights that make her look like Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog. Although we joke around, being pregnant has made Mel do and wear some strange things. It’s best just to let it happen without comment or judgment.

4. Flowers.
Mel loves flowers. They seem to make everything better (I don’t understand it, but I know it’s true). Last week I bought Mel some flowers. The cashier was a woman in her mid 30′s. She asked me what the occasion was. I said, “She’s pregnant. I just thought she could use them.” The casher smiled and agreed. If I could afford it, I’d buy Mel flowers every day that she’s pregnant.

5. Naps.
This is one that I’m not very good at. Being pregnant is exhausting. I can see it in Mel’s eyes. She also tells me about it, too. I often suggest that Mel take a nap, but with the craziness of having two small children, me working two jobs, and Mel in school, it’s difficult to get her to sit down. I think she feels selfish when taking a nap. And honestly, my knee-jerk reaction is to get a little jealous when she gets to take a nap. But I really need to think about the fact that she is growing another person and she needs her rest. I need to be more assertive about picking up her slack so she can feel comfortable dozing for an hour or two during the day.

6. Tell her to sit down.
Standing all day while having a baby wiggling around inside your body, throwing off your equilibrium, must be really difficult. I often see her rubbing her lower back, or her upper legs. I tell Mel to sit down, but just like with naps, I think she feels selfish sitting when there are things to be done. She holds a real sense of duty, which I love about her, but at the same time she needs a rest now and again.

7. A restful night.
Getting a good night’s rest can really change Mel’s disposition. We have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. Both are OK sleepers. But they still tend to get up in the night now and again. I will admit that I sometimes sleep through their cries, but for the most part I make it a point to get up in the night so Mel can sleep.

8. Time alone.
This is another one I need to work on. Being pregnant is emotionally draining. There is no doubt about it. The first time Mel was pregnant, she started crying because I asked her to water the Christmas tree. Sometimes I think she just needs a moment or two to simply be alone. I’ve been trying to make it a point to take both our kids out of the house for one reason or another so she can have some time to herself.

9. Company at the OB-GYN.
Often, Mel meets with her doctor while I am at work. We live in a small Oregon town, which means Mel has to drive almost an hour to meet with the doctor. Long story short, I have not been able to accompany Mel to the doctor as much as I’d like. But when I do go, I can tell she enjoys it. I think it makes her feel less alone in all this. Like I am really there to support her.

10. Ask about her needs.
I like to think that I know what’s best for my wife, but that really is a ridiculous assumption. I need to ask her this simple question more: What do you need right now?

Clint Edwards is the author of No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook.

“Self-care is Like Chocolate. You Can Never Have Enough.”

Like Stacey last week, I’ve been a little under the weather this weekend so I’m posting a link to a new interview I did for Psych Central about practicing self-care. The above phrase is one my husband and I came up with for a talk I gave to new moms, although all of us (including me) can benefit from being reminded.

Here are some recommendations from the interview, which you can click here and read in its entirety.

Practice self-care in intervals.

For instance, take 15 minutes for yourself, twice a day, said Sanford, co-author of the book Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide. “Don’t do the laundry, make dinner or read your email.” Instead, take that time to close your eyes and breathe, read a magazine or take a shower, she said.

Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is “paying attention to the present moment on purpose, without judgment,” Sanford said. And you can do this with any activity, at any time. For instance, when washing the dishes, don’t think about your to-do list. “Just pay attention to the sensory experience” of doing the dishes. When playing with your child, focus on the experience of being with them, she said.

Sanford also suggests her clients try this breathing exercise once in the morning and once during the day, along with this body scan as they lie down to sleep. One client, who had a baby in October, sets her morning alarm for five minutes earlier to practice the breathing exercise.

Ignore the naysayers.

Some people might disapprove of you taking time out for yourself. Remember that others’ objections are more about the discomfort within themselves than your actions, Sanford said. Instead, “listen to your inner wisdom,” and tune into your own feelings. Does an activity feel nourishing to you? Do you feel recharged?

The next time you feel guilty or selfish for practicing self-care, remind yourself that “you matter too, and denying your own needs for a prolonged period does not serve anyone,” Eder said. As Sanford noted, self-care isn’t selfish, it’s “self-preserving.”

What wil you do for self-care this week? How will you make it happen?

Healthy Living at the Holidays: The Gift of Attention

I got so busy this past week, I forgot that an interview I’d done weeks ago was coming out in a St.Louis magazine, Town and Style. Today when I opened my e-mail, I had a link to a post about “Killing Off Supermom,” and how women are still striving and killing themselves to “have and be it all.” Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Often, when my own attention becomes scattered that I’m not thinking about what I may need to consider, the universe sends me a message (usually multiple ones) to alert me that I’ve strayed. Yes, it happens to all of us even with a daily mediation practice. No woman is exempt. Ever.

This time it’s the holidays! While I haven’t been baking cookies or putting up decorations, I’m still the one who sends out cards, buys gifts, keeps the pantry stocked, makes plans, etc. Although I don’t “feel busy,” I realize I must be and that I’ve grown so accustomed to over-doing, I hardly notice. I’m not complaining, I’ve put myself here and I’m the only one who can get myself out.

Then, the universe reminds me again that the real present of life is our presence. To show up and pay attention to your life in this moment is a priceless gift to yourself and your loved ones. Thomas Moore, a psychologist and spiritual teacher said, “In the twenty-first century, attention will be the new aphrodisiac.”

This season, turn off your to-do list, your worries, your cell phone, your tablet and “be here now.”  Each moment is precious. Your attention is the best gift of all.

Happy Holidays!

Women, Hormones and Mood

Did you know that women experience twice as much depression as men? Would that be because we’re more sensitive? I think not. The explanation which best fits is that we are more affected by hormonal shifts which influence our brain chemistry, particulary around times when our lives change dramatically-like pregnancy and post-postpartum.

In fact, 1 in 8 women will experience a clinical episode of depression or anxiety during pregnancy, postpartum and menopause, which is greater than the occurence of most health conditions. So, why aren’t women being routinely screened for mood and anxiety conditions? How can health conditions which have such a profound impact on moms, babies and families continue to be ignored? How many more stories like Miriam Carey’s will unfold ?

To end such needless suffering and tragedies, we must come forward and share our stories to support each other in getting the help we need and deserve. We must be prepared to educate our health providers and make it clear that we expect to be cared for-body, mind, heart and soul. We must challenge our own biases about anxiety and depression, and accept them as “health conditions” just like heart disease or diabetes.

Ghandi said, “Become the change you want to see in the world.”

Now, it’s up to each of us to do our part to reduce the stigma and shame associated with mental health conditions. In Miriam’s memory and for the sake of safeguarding the health of moms and babies, WE MUST.