Posts Tagged ‘ stress ’

Stress Linked to Infertility, Study Finds

Monday, March 24th, 2014

When it comes to getting pregnant, there’s the old saying, “Stop worrying. It will happen once you stop trying.” Well, now there is a new study to back it up. During the study, those with high alpha-amylase levels (a sign of long-term stress) had double the risk of infertility. The New York Times reports:

Over four years, 401 women who were stopping contraception and trying to have a baby underwent saliva testing for two stress-related substances: the enzyme alpha-amylase, and the hormone cortisol. The women provided a saliva sample upon enrollment in the study, and then another at their first observed menstrual period, so that comparisons between the women could be made from the same starting point.

Researchers analyzed the samples and then followed the women to see how long it took them to become pregnant. Women who became pregnant during the first month of the study (before they could give a second saliva sample) were also included in the analysis.

The scientists defined infertility as a failure to become pregnant after 12 months of unprotected intercourse. During the study, published Monday in Human Reproduction, 347 women became pregnant and 54 did not.

There was no association of cortisol with fertility. But those whose alpha-amylase levels were in the highest third, a sign of longstanding stress, had more than double the risk of infertility. The scientists controlled for age, race, income and other health and socioeconomic factors.

The lead author, Courtney D. Lynch, director of reproductive epidemiology at Ohio State University, said that if a woman was having difficulty becoming pregnant, it would be harmless, and might be helpful, to consider stress-reduction techniques.

“Yoga, meditation, mindfulness have been successful in other health outcomes,” she said, “and might be helpful for fertility as well.”

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Stress During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Stress During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?
Stress During Pregnancy: Safe or Not?

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Infants Pick Up on Moms’ Stress, Study Finds

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Infants, who are far from having the ability to express their emotions, nonetheless are able to sense–and feel–when their mothers are experiencing stress, according to a new study conducted by researchers in New York and California.  More from The Huffington Post:

“Your infant may not be able to tell you that you seem stressed or ask you what is wrong, but our work shows that, as soon as she is in your arms, she is picking up on the bodily responses accompanying your emotional state and immediately begins to feel in her own body your own negative emotion,” study researcher Sara Waters, of New York University, said in a statement. Waters worked with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, on the Psychological Science study.

For the study, researchers examined emotion and heart rate in babies whose mothers were put through a stressful task. The study included 69 mothers and their 12- to 14-month-old babies, all of whom had cardiovascular sensors attached to them to record heart rate.

The researchers separated the mothers and babies so that the mothers could give a five-minute speech and go through a five-minute Q & A session. Evaluators were assigned to review each mother’s speech and Q & A session, giving either positive, negative or no feedback. The mothers who received the negative feedback had more negative emotions and fewer positive emotions, as well as increased cardiac stress, after undergoing this experience.

Then, the researchers reunited the mothers with their babies. Within minutes of going back to their mothers, the babies seemed to “track” their mother’s stress response, in the effort of an increased heart rate. And the greater the other’s stress response, the greater the baby’s response seemed to be.

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Top 10 Bonding Tips
Top 10 Bonding Tips
Top 10 Bonding Tips

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‘Kangaroo Care’ May Have Longer Benefits Than Previously Thought

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Holding babies, particularly those who are born prematurely, directly against a mother’s body in a technique called “skin-to-skin contact” or “kangaroo care” may have benefits for babies that last years into their development.  More from LiveScience:

In the study, the researchers asked 73 mothers to give their babies skin-to-skin contact for one hour per day for two weeks. For comparison, the researchers also looked at 73 premature infants who only spent time in an incubator — the standard form of care for premature infants.

At age 10, the children who had received maternal contact as infants slept better, showed better hormonal response to stress, had a more mature functioning of their nervous system and displayed better thinking skills.

The results show that adding “maternal-infant contact in the neonatal period has a favorable impact on stress physiology and behavioral control across long developmental epochs in humans,” Ruth Feldman, a professor of psychology at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and her colleagues wrote in their study, published Jan. 1 in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

About 12 percent of infants in the United States and other industrialized societies are born prematurely, which is defined as at least three weeks before their due date. Rates of preterm birth are significantly higher in developing countries. Premature babies face a higher risk of lifelong problems such as intellectual disabilities, breathing problems, hearing loss and digestive problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Image: Mom holding infant, via Shutterstock

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How to Bathe a Newborn
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Most Americans Misunderstand Causes of Miscarriage

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The causes of miscarriage are commonly misunderstood by many Americans, a new national survey has shown.  For example, most respondents said they believe miscarriage is rare, and that emotional stress is the major cause of miscarriage–two incorrect notions.  More from LiveScience:

These false beliefs often lead to feelings of guilt or blame in parents who experience a miscarriage, according to the researchers.

“Miscarriage is a traditionally taboo subject that is rarely discussed publicly – even though nearly 1 million occur in the U.S. each year, making it the most common complication of pregnancy,” study researcher Dr. S. Zev Williams, an OB-GYN at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said in a statement.

Williams and his colleagues surveyed 1,083 men and women in the United States about their personal experiences and beliefs about miscarriage, the causes and frequency of miscarriages and their emotional impact on people who experience them.

About 65 percent of those surveyed said they thought miscarriage was rare, when in fact, it occurs in one out of four pregnancies, the researchers said. However, 66 percent reported that the emotional impact is severe and potentially equivalent to losing a child, which is a reality for many people who experience one.

Chromosomal abnormalities are in fact the most common cause of miscarriages, accounting for 60 to 80 percent. But among the survey respondents, 76 percent listed a stressful event as a common cause, 74 percent cited longstanding stress and 64 percent cited lifting a heavy object. Forty-one percent said they believed miscarriages may be due to sexually transmitted diseases, 31 percent cited previous abortions, and 28 percent cited implanted long-term forms of birth control.

Nearly a quarter of those surveyed falsely believed that a mother not wanting the pregnancy could result in a miscarriage.

Results of the survey were presented Oct. 17 at the meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in Boston.

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Research Explores How Post-Traumatic Stress Affects Families After Illness

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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