Women’s Mental Health

Mamas on Bedrest: What’s The Worst That Can Happen?

April 14th, 2014

Top of the morning Mamas!

Today I’m going to suggest you take a walk on the dark side. Lately I’ve been worrying about something and that worry has translated into sleepless nights, trouble concentrating and being more than a bit snippy with my kiddos. I finally called a girlfriend the other day and told her what was going on. She already knew about the issue that was worrying me, but did not know how much it was interfering with my daily functioning. Since my friend is a life coach, she took me through this exercise which I am going to share with you today.

This exercise is exploring What’s the worst that can happen? I suggest that you do this exercise with a partner. This can be your spouse, a friend, a family member…with whomever you feel most comfortable. I say “most comfortable” because you must be able to be really transparent with your feelings with this person-no holds barred so to speak. How the exercise works is you share with your partner your greatest fear about some issue going on in your life. Then, you and your partner create a counter argument as to why your greatest fear likely won’t happen. Finally, you two will brainstorm what you could do if your greatest fear actually were to come true.

Why do an exercise like this? Primarily, because the scenarios that our minds create about situations in our lives are far more dramatic than what would actually happen. When we are afraid, our minds create all kinds of mayhem around situations and in a sense feed our fears. In this exercise, taking a hard look at these “fictitious” outcomes and with our partners refuting how they are not likely helps ease our fears.

So that you can see how it works, I am going to do an abbreviated version for you. Let’s say that the issue is you have an incompetent cervix and you are worried that you are going to lose your baby. The issue isn’t just that you are worried you are going to lose your baby. The issues are also that you really want this pregnancy and this child and the future that you see for yourself, your partner and your family. You may have already picked out names, purchased furniture and made special preparation. So losing this baby would not only mean losing the physical being, but also all the hopes and dreams associated with this little one. (Hang on, this gets better, I promise!)

Now with your partner, list all the reasons this is not likely to happen. Here’s what your list may look like:

1. I have a cerclage and my doctor said it was easily done, done properly and in perfect position

2. I am now on bedrest and although not fun, being recumbent takes the pull of gravity off my cervix relieving any potential pressure

3. I am _____weeks along and every day that I remain on bed rest is a day more mature my baby becomes.

4. My baby is moving about happily and content within me.

5. My last doctor’s exam showed that everything is okay (i.e. my cervix may have shortened, but is holding steady at___mm; the baby is growing and developing perfectly normally; I have no spotting, bleeding, cramping, etc….)

6. I have family and friends to support me

You see where this is going? These are just the first thoughts that came into my head. I am sure you’ll have more and I recommend that you really personalize the answers. Hopefully your partner will really dig with you for the goodness that is going on right now so that you can see the silver lining in this cloud of darkness.

“But what if the worst happens? What if I lose my baby?”

I totally hear you! I lost my first pregnancy so soon after realizing that I was pregnant I really didn’t have time to get too attached-yet I was still devastated. However, I became completely unglued when I lost my second pregnancy. After my first miscarriage we learned that my fibroids were making it nearly impossible for me to carry a pregnancy to term. So I had them removed and then had my daughter. I thought I was home free! The second miscarriage was a blow from left field in my mind. I had done everything right. I had had a baby. How could this happen?

With your partner, I am going to ask you to go to that dark place, the worst case scenario. I invite you to cry and really give into your emotions and LET THEM OUT!! When we are chronically upset and especially when we’re holding things in, our bodies are releasing cortisol and adrenaline and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that are keeping our bodies in “red alert mode”. This more detrimental to our health than the actual impact of the negative event! When we have the negative event, we go through the process of grieving and processing the event and then onto resolution. When we are simply in “red alert mode”, we don’t process, we don’t move through and we keep out bodies in stress. In this state, we can actually bring about that which we are most afraid of happening! So again, talk about what it would be like if the worst were to happen, you actually lost the baby. Who would you tell? Who would be available for support? What would you want to know from your doctor? Would you want to try to get pregnant again? What are your chances of having another miscarriage? What would you need to do in between pregnancies to optimize your chances?

See where this is going? You are taking action. You are actually being proactive and hence taking control of your situation. So rather than feeling like a “sitting duck” waiting for the worst to happen, you are ready. As Dr. Jennifer Gunter so eloquently stated, “Prepare for the worst, but expect the best!”

To this end, I also strongly suggest that you have a candid talk with your health care provider about your fears. Sometimes what we are thinking is so far out of line with reality, it helps to have an “expert” reign us in with the facts. Also, if your fears are founded, again, take a proactive stance and get all the information, support and resources you can to help your situation.

I know that this is not an easy or pleasant topic, but it is necessary. It’s not okay for you to be on bedrest stressed out, not sleeping and essentially worrying yourself into the worst case scenario. Please, please, please, dump your doubt! Perhaps you and another mama in our community would like to pair up and support one another?? Who knows better what you are going through than another Mama on Bedrest? What better way to strengthen your ties in our community?? And remember, if you cannot find a partner to speak with, you can take advantage of the Free 30 Minute Bedrest Breakthrough Session with me!!

Questions? Comments? If you do the exercises, please be sure to share your results in our comments section below!!

Mamas on Bedrest: Our culture is woefully ignorant about perinatal mood disorders

July 22nd, 2013

Our culture still has a lot to learn about perinatal mood disorders.

Today’s post is in response to a very well written blog by my friend and colleague Walker Karraa who is speaking out against a CNN television special about Andrea Yates, the former Houston Texas mother who killed her 5 children in a psychotic break. This tragedy occurred in 2001 and still, after all this time, after numerous psychiatric evaluations, court hearings and appeals, CNN is airing a documentary that has the undertone that Andrea Yates was not at all mentally ill and she willfully and purposely killed her 5 children. I encourage you all to read  Walker’s guest blog post on Post Partum Progress, and if you feel so lead, watch the documentary on CNN (it will be aired 3 times!!). Between the two, I come away asking, “Is this trip really necessary?”

Andrea Yates was the mother of 5 children who developed severe post partum psychosis after the birth of her 5th child and killed her children “as instructed” from voices she “heard.” She had battled a severe case of post partum depression after the birth of her 4th child, had attempted suicide and had been admitted to a mental institution for treatment. She was reportedly “stable” but the couple had been advised not to have any more children as Andrea would likely suffer a psychiotic break. Unfortunately, she and her husband Rusty continued on with their mission “to have as many children as nature allowed”, and sadly shortly after the birth of their only daughter, their 5th child, Andrea became psychotic and killed her children.

Childbearing is not an easy process. While a joyous and often eagerly anticipated event, It taxes every system in a woman’s body. While the vast majority of women will have uneventful pregnancies, labors and deliveries, we know that approximately 750,000 American women will be prescribed bed rest during their pregnancies annually. According to Katherine Stone, the author and owner of Post Partum Progress, an award winning blog and website on post partum depression, an average of 15% of all pregnancies result in some form of perinatal mood disorder. Katherine breaks down the numbers of women annually who suffer post partum mood disorders and this number equates to 950,000 women!

The sad truth is that our culture is woefully ignorant about the perils and pitfalls of pregnancy and childbearing and simply assumes,

“Having a baby is a natural occurrence. All animals do it. None of them receive any extra support, so why should women??”

So when something goes wrong and there are complications, people are equally baffled. Yet, few people are willing to acknowledge that every time a woman becomes pregnant, she puts her life on the line to bring forth another life. We don’t acknowledge the risks involved, the strains on all of her physiological systems-and this includes her mental health system.

How incredible would it be if we put as much effort into screening for and providing support and treatment for perinatal mood disorders as we do demonizing them? What if CNN and its shows sponsors took the money that they put into this documentary and donated it towards perinatal mood disorder screening an treatments instead of attempting to boost their own ratings and sales from a most tragic event? What if, if they so strongly felt the need to produce and air this documentary, they then turned around and provided outlets for people to learn more? Instead of this being a “Look what a monster Andrea Yates is and she got away with her crime!” CNN and its show sponsors could have approached this tragedy with, “This was a shocking tragedy. Let’s make sure it never happens again!” 

So what has this got to do with Mamas on Bedrest? Everything! According to statistics from the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 8 women prescribed bed rest will develop post partum depression. And this is the number for only post partum depression. This number does not include ante partum mood disorders or any other mental health disorders that may occur during their pregnancies, labor or deliveries. The numbers don’t account for the mothers who lose their children before they have a chance to be born. The numbers don’t include those mothers who experience traumatic births. And these numbers consist mostly of mothers who report their post partum depression. How many cases go undocumented? Undiagnosed??

I am going to make a point to watch this CNN broadcast and will report back after viewing. I hope that I am pleasantly surprised and that the broadcast will highlight the pitfalls of perinatal mood disorders and what we can do to help women who suffer them.  I am not holding out much hope that this is the case, but I want to have an open mind and do my best to present all sides to a story. So stay tuned and I will report back after viewing!

 

Mamas on Bedrest: Redefining Yourself After Bedrest

July 19th, 2013

In Today’s video blog, Bedrest Coach Darline Turner encourages Mamas on Bedrest to consider redefining themselves in light of (or in spite of ) their bed rest experiences.

Bed rest is not an easy process and most certainly not one any woman would choose for her pregnancy. However, like any trial or tribulation, the cloud can have a silver lining and this lining is what Darline challenges women to seek. Referring to former Mamas on Bedrest Rebecca Buscemi and Jessica-Lyn, Darline asks Mamas on Bedrest to redefine themselves based on their newfound strength instead of their trials.