Global Women’s Health

Mamas on Bedrest: Your Mental Health Matters

July 6th, 2015

Hello Mamas,

Calling your attention to an amazing organization that is doing exceptional work globally for mamas, The Maternal Health TaskForce (MHTF). A project of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health, MHTF is working towards:

  • Making the most up to date evidence-based information is available to practitioners, provider, researchers and anyone with a vested interest in helping and supporting women during childbearing
  • Provide opportunities for the global maternal health community to come together to discuss and create unified policies on women’s health issues globally
  • Provide resources and support for research in Maternal/Infant/Child Health
  • Train the next generation of Global Women’s Health Practitioners and researchers.

I receive the MHTF e-newsletter and the last newsletter was all about Maternal Mental Health. Maternal Mental Health is an often overlooked (ignored!!) part of women’s health. Current research estimates are that 10-15% of women in upper income countries (like the US, Canada, Australia and the UK for example) experience perinatal mental health disorders. In lower and middle income countries (Africa and parts of Asia), the current estimate is closer to 33% and many researchers feel that this number is low because until now mental health in childbearing women in these countries hasn’t been addressed. However, the impact of adverse maternal mental health has had significant impact on maternal health, infant and child health and the maternal child bond, so researchers and clinicians both are very keen to study the various mental health disorders common in childbearing women-mainly depression and anxiety.

Over the last month, MHTF had a blog carnival addressing mental health issues in childbearing women in their Mental Health: The Missing piece in Maternal Health series. It’s a really interesting series of blog posts and reflect how pervasive mental health disorders are in childbearing women, and how overlooked the signs and symptoms have been until very recently. The blogs also address how the stigma of mental health is so strong in all countries regardless of economic status, and this stigma is keeping many women from receiving much needed care. The articles do a wonderful job of highlighting the issues surrounding the stigma of mental illness, how women are not being heard in terms of the emotional toll of adverse birth outcomes and barriers to care. I highly recommend taking a look.

For those of you not really interested in global women’s health and need assistance closer to home, (i.e. for yourself!!) I am happy to announce that our Third Thursday Teleseminars are going video! It has long been a dream of mine to be able to bring Mamas on Bedrest together to be able to talk and share ! I have been researching platforms on which to do this for years and until recently, the platforms were just too grainy (i.e the images were really not that good), Platforms were only able to accommodate up to 10 participants or platforms that could accommodate more than 10 participants had hefty user fees or required expensive software. Now there is Zoom web conferencing and it’s amazing! I attended a web conference using it last week and I could clearly hear and see all of the other participants! So we are giving Zoom a test drive for our Third Thursday Teleseminar, July 16, 2015. Login details will be shared in our upcoming newsletter and will be available on our website. So if you have concerns about anxiety, depression or other feelings you may be having during your bedrest journey, this is the perfect time and place to bring your concerns.

In the meantime, share pressing questions or concerns in the comments section below or send an e-mail to Info@mamasonbedrest.com for a 24hr response.

Mamas on Bedrest: It’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

August 4th, 2014

nursing infantGreetings Mamas!!

August kicks off National Breastfeeding Awareness Month here in the US. Officially designated on August 6, 2011 by the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), the month of educational and promotional activities is designed to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding-physiologically for mamas, developmentally for babies, emotionally for both and economically for families.  Here is the full proclamation. Breastfeeding has been reported to have the following benefits. In Babies

  • Breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for infants’ health, growth, immunity and development. (Healthy People 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Breast-fed children are more resistant to disease and infection early in life than formula-fed children. Many studies show that breastfeeding strengthens the immune system. During nursing, the mother passes antibodies to the child, which help the child resist diseases and help improve the normal immune response to certain vaccines. Breast-fed children are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15
  • Breastfed babies are less likely to be obese as adults
  • Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the likelihood of ear infections, and to prevent recurrent ear infections. Ear infections are a major reason that infants take multiple courses of antibiotics.
  • Researchers have observed a decrease in the probability of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in breast-fed infants.
  • Another apparent benefit from breastfeeding may be protection from allergies. Eczema, an allergic reaction, is significantly rarer in breast-fed babies. A review of 132 studies on allergy and breastfeeding concluded that breastfeeding appears to help protect children from developing allergies, and that the effect seems to be particularly strong among children whose parents have allergies.

In Mamas

  • Breastfeeding helps a woman to lose weight after birth.
  • Breastfeeding releases a hormone in the mother (oxytocin) that causes the uterus to return to its normal size more quickly.
  • When a woman gives birth and proceeds to nurse her baby, she protects herself from becoming pregnant again too soon, a form of birth control found to be 98 percent effective — more effective than a diaphragm or condom. Scientists believe this process prevents more births worldwide than all forms of contraception combined. In Africa, breastfeeding prevents an estimated average of four births per woman, and in Bangladesh it prevents an estimated average of 6.5 births per woman.
  • Breastfeeding appears to reduce the mother’s risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. Although mothers experience bone-mineral loss during breastfeeding, their mineral density is replenished and even increased after lactation.
  • Diabetic women improve their health by breastfeeding. Not only do nursing infants have increased protection from juvenile diabetes, the amount of insulin that the mother requires postpartum goes down.
  • Women who lactate for a total of two or more years reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by 24 percent.
  • Women who breastfeed their children have been shown to be less likely to develop uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer.
  • The emotional health of the mother may be enhanced by the relationship she develops with her infant during breastfeeding, resulting in fewer feelings of anxiety and a stronger sense of connection with her baby. Breastfeeding has also been shown to reduce the incidence of post partum depression in mamas. (See our posts on Breastfeeding and Post Partum Depression!)

August 1-7, 2014 is also World Breastfeeding Week. Coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), the theme for this year’s week of awareness is to impress upon everyone importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is one of the methods advocated in the Millennium Development Goals, developed in 1990 by the United Nations and affiliated governments to help fight poverty and promote healthy and sustainable development in a comprehensive way by 2015.

wbw2014-objectives According to the WABA breastfeeding and the Millennium Develoment Goals are intricately linked, “The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are meant to be achieved by 2015 – next year! Although much progress has taken place, there is still a lot of “unfinished business”. Here are some examples: Poverty has gone down, but 1 in 8 people still go to bed hungry. Undernutrition affects about a quarter of all children globally. Overweight, the other form of malnutrition is becoming more common too. In the last 2 decades, child mortality has decreased by about 40%, but still almost 7 million children under five die each year, mainly from preventable diseases. As the overall rate of under-five mortality has declined, the proportion of neonatal deaths (during the first month of life) comprises an increasing proportion of all child deaths. Globally, maternal mortality has declined from 400 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 210 in 2010, but fewer than half of women deliver in baby-friendly maternities. By protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding, YOU can contribute to each of the MDGs in a substantial way. Exclusive breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding are key interventions for improving child survival, potentially saving about 20% of children under five. Let’s review how the UN’s Scientific Committee on Nutrition illustrated how breastfeeding is linked to each of the Millennium Development Goals.” So breastfeeding can go a long way to not only benefitting the health of mamas and babies individually, but help reduce poverty, malnutrition and infant and child mortality globally. If you are considering breastfeeding and want more information, the links in this post are from some of the best resources globally, especially if you want to take on an advocacy role. If you want more specific personal information on breastfeeding, I suggest you contact your local La Leche League. These folks really know breastfeeding!! They offer a plethora of information on their website, have many books on breastfeeding available for purchase and do phone and often in person consultations. You can also check with your healthcare provider and local hospital for referrals to lactation consultants who can assist with breastfeeding.   Do you have more questions? Join Bedrest Coach Darline Turner for a one hour Q & A session during the Free Third Thursday Teleseminar, August 21, 2014, 1:00-2:00pm ET. She will field any and all questions relating to bedrest, pregnancy and post partum. You can join the conversation live or submit your questions up to 24 hours before via e-mail at info@mamasonbedrest.com. Join our interactive bed rest community on Facebook and chat with mamas globally on all things bed rest! Finally, Get your copy of the e-book From Mamas: The Essential Guide to Surviving Bedrest! This guide will help you not only survive bedrest, but THRIVE on bedrest! Order your copy now on Amazon.com   Other Resources: Natural Resources Defense Council 101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child

Mamas On Bedrest: The Global Prenatal Initiative

March 21st, 2014

Global Prenatal Initiative

Greetings Mamas and “Happy Anniversary”!!

I am pleased to present to you the Global Prenatal Initiative (GPI). GPI is an initiative of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) Commission of the World Organisation of Prenatal Education Associations (OMAEP), and is in partnership with the 20th Anniversary of the United Nations International Year of Families. The GPI is an awareness raising campaign. The mission of the Global Prenatal Initiative is:

  1. Raise awareness in all sectors of society of the long-term impact of the 9 months of pregnancy for individual and global peace, sustainable development and poverty eradication.
  2. Emphasize the impact of parenting, and especially the key role of the mother during pregnancy and birth, for the future of humanity.
  3. Advocate putting “prenatal education” at the heart of all education, health, social development and policy making.

Julie Ryan Gerland is the Chief United Nations Representative for the OMAEP and the co-founder of GPI. Julie’s work with the UN focuses on improving Maternal Health and Reducing Infant Mortality, sustainable development, the Commission on the Status of Women and all peace issues. She is a perinatal education pioneer, co-author, international lecturer and advocate in the field of very early parenting from pre-conception to the first year after birth. Julie founded the Holistic Parenting Program: Preconception to Birth & Beyond, a program for parents and professionals in Provence, France. Julie’s mission in life is to raise awareness of the necessity of “a calm and peaceful start.” Through her program, Julie educates men and women before they conceive on the importance of creating a calm and peaceful environment for the eagerly anticipated child. She people to heal their own wounds from their individual, family and cultural upbringing prior (optimally) to becoming a couple and most certainly before becoming parents. Her intent is to solidify the bond between man and woman and than between parents and child.  In her own words, 

“The Global Prenatal Initiative (GPI) is a wake-up call to the essential paradigm shift that makes global sustainable development realizable. The “9 Months to Save the World” begins at conception. The time spent in the womb is the foundation for long-term health, emotional security, intelligence, creativity and much more for every human being. It is vital that the link between these early stages of human development, their long-term impact and the current global challenges be known.” 

“If we want peace, for instance, babies must experience peace from the start then they grow up knowing peace, being peaceful and re-creating peaceful activities and environments which will in turn bring global peace. How can we expect someone who has always known violence from the moment of conception through the most vulnerable time of development, the nine-months in utero, followed by a violent birth and early infancy to act peacefully?”

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, an event created and celebrated by the United Nations. OMAEP and it’s global partners will be celebrating, discussing UN priority themes as well as bringing light on the vital role pregnancy and birth play in the long-term development of every human being. OMAEP and its member associations will assemble and diffuse the scientific and psychological knowledge on the importance and long term impact of the «primal period» from preconception to the post natal period, and the mother-father-child bond during this time.

I am fascinated by this work and these initiatives. It also makes me wonder, how is the US faring in the face of these initiatives? Our invasive medical techniques, high rates of induction and cesarean section, our high rates of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality (especially in black women) and our high stress, vary rapid lifestyle kind of make me go “ouch”.  Reading these initiatives and the work that is being done at the international level, I ask myself, “What do these workers think of bed rest?” How does bed rest even factor into the Global Prenatal initiative? And most certainly I wonder, “If there were programs such as the Holistic Parenting Program in the US (and there may be and I’m just not aware of them!), would there even be a need for bed rest?”

I am just learning about GPI but I believe that its work is coming at a critical juncture in the “revolution” that is perinatal health and work. The anniversary celebration will be going on all year all over the world, so I’ll do my best to keep you up on the latest.

What’s going on in prenatal health in your neck of the woods? We have mamas in our community from all over the world, so we’d love to hear what’s up. Share your happenings in the comments section below! Have a question or comment on GPI? Feel free to e-mail us at info@mamasonbedrest.com.