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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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
Women who get poor sleep during pregnancy–either not enough time asleep or restless sleep–may disrupt the immune system and lead to lower birth weight and other complications, a new study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine has found. More from ScienceDaily.com:
Women with depression also are more likely than non-depressed women to suffer from disturbed sleep and to experience immune system disruption and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
“Our results highlight the importance of identifying sleep problems in early pregnancy, especially in women experiencing depression, since sleep is a modifiable behavior,” said Michele Okun, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine and lead author of the report. “The earlier that sleep problems are identified, the sooner physicians can work with pregnant women to implement solutions.”
Adequate and high-quality sleep, both in pregnant and non-pregnant women as well as men, is essential for a healthy immune system. Pregnancy often is associated with changes in sleep patterns, including shortened sleep, insomnia symptoms and poor sleep quality. These disturbances can exacerbate the body’s inflammatory responses and cause an overproduction of cytokines, which act as signal molecules that communicate among immune cells.
“There is a dynamic relationship between sleep and immunity, and this study is the first to examine this relationship during pregnancy as opposed to postpartum,” added Dr. Okun.
While cytokines are important for numerous pregnancy-related processes, excess cytokines can attack and destroy healthy cells and cause destruction of tissue in pregnant women, thereby inhibiting the ability to ward off disease. For expectant mothers, excess cytokines also can disrupt spinal arteries leading to the placenta, cause vascular disease, lead to depression and cause pre-term birth.
Image: Sleeping pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
Children whose parents administer discipline in the form of slapping, shoving, or pushing may be more likely to become obese or suffer other emotional and physical health problems later in life. Reuters has more:
“This is one study that adds to a growing area of research that all has consistent findings that physical punishment is associated with negative mental and now physical (health) outcomes,” said Tracie Afifi, who led the study at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.
Last year, she and her colleagues published findings linking hitting and slapping in childhood to a higher risk of depression and anxiety later in life (see Reuters Health story of July 2, 2013 here: reut.rs/Mo1MXm.)
For the current report, they re-analyzed data collected in 2004 and 2005 by United States Census interviewers, who surveyed more than 34,000 adults across the country.
Participants were asked whether their parents or other adults at home pushed, slapped, grabbed, shoved or hit them for punishment as a child. They also reported their current health conditions.
About 1,300 people reported being physically punished at least “sometimes” without more extreme physical or emotional abuse or neglect. Compared to people who weren’t punished physically as children, they were more likely to have been diagnosed with at least one chronic health condition.
Specifically, those participants were 25 percent more likely to have arthritis and 28 percent more likely to have cardiovascular disease – though the second finding could have been due to chance, the researchers wrote Monday in Pediatrics.
More people who had been punished physically were obese: about 31 percent, versus 26 percent of those with no history of physical punishment.
Image: Angry parent and child, via Shutterstock
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Friday, July 12th, 2013
Children who are suffering from depression experience brain changes similar to the changes observed in depressed adults, new research published in The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has found. The New York Times reports:
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The children underwent M.R.I. brain scans while viewing pictures of happy, sad, fearful or neutral faces. The researchers found that right amygdala and right thalamus activity was significantly greater in the depressed children than in the others, a finding that has also been observed in depressed adolescents and adults.
“We found something in the brain that is aligned with the idea of neurobiological models of depression — which parts of the brain are involved and how they interact,” said the lead author, Michael S. Gaffrey, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis. “We can begin to use this information in conjunction with other information — symptoms, other biological markers — to identify and eventually prevent and treat this disorder.”