Mama’s Mental 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: 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!!