Tuesday, December 24th, 2013
Babies born to mothers who took antidepressants during pregnancy are not any more likely to develop an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than babies born to mothers who didn’t take the medication. More from Reuters:
Women who take a common type of antidepressant during pregnancy are not more likely to have a child with autism, according to a new study from Denmark.
But children did have a higher than usual risk when their mothers took the drugs – known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – for depression or anxiety before becoming pregnant.
That suggests a possible link between a mother’s preexisting mental health issues and the developmental disorder that hinders social and communication skills.
“Our interpretation is that women with indications for SSRI use differ from women who do not use SSRIs because of these indications (depression, anxiety), and some of these differences are somehow related to an increased risk of having children who develop autism,” Dr. Anders Hviid said. He led the study at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen.
“Whether these differences are genetic, social or something completely different is speculation at this point,” Hviid said.
The findings, combined with a separate analysis of the same database published last month in the journal Clinical Epidemiology, suggest people looking for a link between autism and SSRIs need to look elsewhere, Dr. Mark Zylka said.
Zylka, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, has studied autism but was not involved in the analyses.
“There’s been a big question in the literature about whether these drugs affect brain development in any way and cause autism,” he told Reuters Health. That’s important because of how many people take antidepressants, including pregnant women.
Image: Pregnant woman taking pill, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
Parents whose children face serious or life-threatening illnesses are likely to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including anxiety and depression. These symptoms may, in effect, extend the traumatic effect the illness has on the whole family because it affects how parents treat siblings, their spouses, and other relatives. More on a new study about post-traumatic stress in kids and adults after a child’s injury from The New York Times:
Researchers who study parental stress tend to reach for the oxygen-mask metaphor: if you don’t breathe yourself, you aren’t going to be able to take care of your child.
“Parents need to feel well enough that they can then be there for their child, their other children,” said Nancy Kassam-Adams, a psychologist who is the director of the Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The hardest thing is self-care.”
Dr. Kassam-Adams is the lead author of a new review of post-traumatic stress in both children and parents after the children were injured, which concludes that about one in every six children, and a similar percentage of parents, experience significant, persistent symptoms. They may have intrusive and distressing memories and dreams, or continue to avoid people or places that evoke the circumstances of the injury, or struggle with mood problems, including depression. If untreated, this can damage the child’s emotional and physical recovery.
Research into the effects of parental stress developed as pediatric cancer treatment claimed more and more success stories, medical victories that gave children their lives back. Clinicians and social workers — and parents themselves — began asking questions about how to help families continue on with those triumphantly recovered childhoods.
It helped, in part, to tell parents that they’d been enlisted in a war, said Anne E. Kazak, a pediatric psychologist and co-director of the Center for Healthcare Delivery Science at Nemours Pediatric Health System in Wilmington, Del. Parents connected to this metaphor: “You’ve been part of the war on cancer, the battle fighting it,” she said.
Some of the strategies and insights gained from this body of research are already visible in most children’s hospitals: a place for parents to sleep, even in the intensive care unit; including parents in so-called family-centered rounds; a staff attuned to interpret a parent’s extreme behavior as a cry for help, rather than a source of irritation and extra work.
But what happens after children are out of the medical danger zone? Many parents continue to experience the physical symptoms of stress — the racing pulse, the dry mouth. They continue to flash back to the moment of the cancer diagnosis, the moment of the very premature birth, the moment of the accident.
“It’s my belief a parent who’s traumatized is always expecting the other shoe to drop, will always be scanning the horizon,” said Dr. Richard J. Shaw, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford.
Image: Mother holding infant’s hand, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Kevin Breel, at age 19, has given a TED talk in which he’s painfully honest about living with depression as a teenager, and feeling that stigmas that surround mental health were stopping him from asking for help. More from Today.com:
Like many of the 121 million people worldwide who suffer from depression, Breel said he was leading a double life. In high school, while everyone else saw a happy popular kid and star on the basketball court, deep inside there was a boy tortured by intense pain that kept ratcheting up.
“I’d look at the school,” Breel told Geist. “And I would know in my head that, ‘I’m about to walk in there and smile, laugh, high-five people, and put on a total front.’”
If you haven’t been depressed, there’s no way to understand it.
“Real depression isn’t being sad when something in your life goes wrong,” Breel says. “Real depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right.”
“I felt like I couldn’t be happy,” Breel added.
He believes his depression was triggered by the tragic loss of a best friend coupled with the divorce of his parents, and he turned his feelings of loss and anger inward.
“I started to, in a way, hate myself,” he said. “I felt so unhappy and I couldn’t explain why or justify why to anyone. So I didn’t feel like I could talk about it.”
As a teenager he used sports as a way to escape his pain. But his successes, instead of making him feel good, only underscored how bad he felt.
“We had just won a high school basketball championship, and I was leading scorer of the tournament,” Breel said. “I was first team all-star, and our team won the championship. I had everything that I had thought of for four years. And I realized that that wasn’t going to take away my pain.”
See Breel’s whole TED talk here:
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Monday, September 30th, 2013
New moms are increasingly shortening their maternity leaves, citing financial and personal pressures as reasons for going back to work within weeks of giving birth. Analysis of data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that as many as half of new mothers are shortening their leaves by half. More from Today.com:
About two-thirds of U.S. women are employed during pregnancy and about 70 percent of them report taking some time off, according to most recent figures from the National Center for Health Statistics. The average maternity leave in the U.S. is about 10 weeks, but about half of new moms took at least five weeks, with about a quarter taking nine weeks or more, figures showed.
But a closer look shows that 16 percent of new moms took only one to four weeks away from work after the birth of a child — and 33 percent took no formal time off at all, returning to job duty almost immediately.
That means more women are coping with pregnancy-weary bodies, the demands of a newborn and the demands of a boss — all before the “Welcome, Baby” flowers have wilted on the bedside table.
Research has shown that shorter leaves can interfere with recommended breastfeeding duration and may contribute to higher rates of depression among new moms.
Image: Working mom, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 13th, 2013
Group therapy sessions may prevent episodes of depression in at-risk teens, especially those whose parents are also depressed, according to a new study conducted at Boston Children’s Hospital. Reuters has more:
“What was exciting was the sustained effect over the length of the follow-up,” said lead author Dr. William R. Beardslee of the psychiatry department at Boston Children’s Hospital.
He and his coauthors had previously found a reduced risk of depression nine months after the cognitive behavioral therapy sessions began. The new results show that risk was still reduced two years after they ended.
The study included 316 teenagers of parents with current or past depressive disorders.
Half were assigned to the therapy program, which involved eight weekly 90-minute group sessions with a trained therapist followed by six monthly sessions, and the other half received standard care. The kids had symptoms of depression, but not diagnosable depressive disorders.
The researchers tracked teens’ “depressive episodes” lasting at least two weeks, as reported by the kids and their parents.
During the study and the two-year follow-up period – a total of 33 months – 37 percent of kids assigned to the therapy sessions had at least one depressive episode, versus 48 percent of those in the comparison group.
But that difference was only seen among teens whose parents were not clinically depressed when the study began.
When parents were not depressed at the time of the study, cognitive behavioral therapy prevented one depressive episode for every six kids in the program, the researchers found. However, for kids with currently depressed parents, therapy sessions didn’t seem to have an effect, they wrote in JAMA Psychiatry.
“First, we need to understand how current parental depression is related to differential outcomes,” Beardslee told Reuters Health. “Then, we need to target these factors to reduce their effects on child outcome.”
Image: Teens talking, via Shutterstock
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