Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
A survey of more than 7,000 mothers conducted by TodayMoms.com asked what the most stressful number of kids is in a family, and the verdict was–three kids. More from Today.com:
Mothers of three children stress more than moms of one or two, while mothers of four or more children actually report lower stress levels, according to an exclusive TODAYMoms.com survey of more than 7,000 U.S. mothers released Monday. Call it the Duggar effect: Once you get a certain critical mass of kids, life seems to get a bit easier.
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most stressed, the average mom in our survey puts herself at 8.5. What’s stressing moms out? Plenty, from money worries to balancing the demands of work and home to feeling like her husband is sometimes just another big kid demanding attention. But the big secret of mom stress is that a lot of it comes from within: 75 percent of mothers said they stress more about the pressure they put on themselves to be “perfect” than they do the pressure or judgment they get from other moms.
“You always hear about the mommy wars, but I feel like we’re judging ourselves more harshly than anyone else,” says Jill Smokler, 35, “Scary Mommy” blogger and author of “Motherhood Comes Naturally (And Other Vicious Lies).” And she should know from stress: She has three kids, and totally agrees that it’s the most stressful number.
“Going from one to two was an easy, breezy transition,” says Smokler, a Baltimore mom whose children are 5, 7 and 9. “Two to three, everything was turned upside down. I do not feel like I have it together. You only have two hands! Just crossing the street and not being able to physically hold all their hands I find tremendously stressful.”
More stress nuggets from the online survey of 7,164 U.S. mothers, conducted the week of April 17 by TODAY.com and Insight Express:
- 46 percent of moms say their husbands/partners cause them more stress than their kids do.
- 72 percent of moms stress about how stressed they are.
- Biggest cause of stress: 60 percent say it’s lack of time to do everything that needs to get done.
- 60 percent of moms say raising girls is more stressful than raising boys.
- Nine out of 10 moms stress about staying fit and attractive.
Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist in New York and TODAY contributor, said mom stress is a problem she sees daily in her practice.
“Moms are acutely aware of the fact they do not have the time to take care of their own needs,” Taylor said. Forget reading a book, exercising or fun hobbies: Some moms barely have time to shower.
“Before you’re a mom, you take that for granted,” Taylor said. “When you are a mom you just don’t have the time.”
Image: 3 kids, via Shutterstock
Monday, March 11th, 2013
Physical exercise might help children cope with the effects of acute everyday stress, according to a new study conducted in Finland and published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Though the study did not control for factors like sugar intake or chronic, baseline levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, it did find that physical activity was related to better, more resilient responses to stress. The New York Times has more:
Finnish researchers had 258 8-year-old boys and girls wear accelerometers on their wrists for at least four days that registered the quality and quantity of their physical activity. Their parents used cotton swabs to take saliva samples at various times throughout a single day, which the researchers used to assess levels of cortisol, a hormone typically induced by physical or mental stress.
There was no difference in the cortisol levels at home between children who were active and those who were less active. But when the researchers gave the children a standard psychosocial stress test at a clinic involving arithmetic and storytelling challenges, they found that those who had not engaged in physical activity had raised cortisol levels. The children who had moderate or vigorous physical activity showed relatively no rise in cortisol levels.
Those results indicate a more positive physiological response to stress by children who were more active, the researchers said in a study that was published this week in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The children who were least active had the highest levels.
“This study shows that children who are more active throughout their day have a better hormonal response to an acute stressful situation,” said Disa Hatfield, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island, who was not involved in the study.
Image: Child climbing on playground, via Shutterstock
Thursday, March 7th, 2013
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is marked by heightened levels of anxiety, disruptive repetitive thoughts, and compulsively repeated behaviors, strikes new mothers at higher rates than it affects the general population, a new study to be published in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine has found.
OCD during the postpartum weeks and months may take the form of repeatedly checking to make sure baby is breathing, repeatedly washing bottles, or worrying unceasingly about germs and safety. More from RelaxNews:
Previous studies have suggested that women experience OCD symptoms during the postpartum period, but these studies were based on subjects’ recall of past events, LiveScience reports. However, the new study followed moms throughout the first six months after a baby was born, asking partipants to respond to survey questions. More than 460 new moms participated in the study. About half of the subjects who reported symptoms at two weeks improved by six months, while other women’s OCD symptoms sparked at six months. Stress is a well-known trigger to OCD, so the stress of being a new mom could trigger a preexisting condition in some women, the researchers noted. Postpartum hormone levels could play a role as well.
Image: Baby bottles on drying rack, via Shutterstock
Thursday, June 28th, 2012
A study published this week in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology has found that women who fear childbirth may actually have to endure labors that are, on average, an hour and a half longer than women who are not fearful. From CNN.com:
Study author Dr. Samantha Salvesen Adams initially thought her team would find the prolonged labor could be explained by other factors – women who feared birth the most were first time mothers, who are known to have longer labors anyway, or obstetric interventions like epidurals. But when those factors were taken into consideration, the difference in time between the fearless and the fearful was still 47 minutes.
“Mental stress is associated with physiological arousal and release of stress hormones,” Adams wrote in an e-mail. “During labour, high levels of stress hormones may weaken uterine [contractions].”
In other words, the adrenaline released when a body is stressed stops the oxytocin hormone production that makes a woman’s uterus contract, slowing labor. It’s a natural, biological response to fear, [Dr. Stuart] Fischbein said.
Image: Pregnant woman with clock, via Shutterstock.
Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
A parent’s demonstration of love, shown through nurturing behavior and comforting children at times of stress, actually has an impact on brain development, a new study finds. CNN.com’s medical blog reports on the research, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
Here’s how the study was done. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recruited 92 children between the ages of 3 and 6. Rather than asking parents about how they treated their children, the researchers brought the kids and parents into a lab and videotaped them as the parents, almost always mothers, tried to help their children cope with a mildly stressful task that was designed to approximate the stress of daily parenting.
Ratings of parental ability to nurture their children were done by study personnel who watched the videos while knowing nothing about either children or parents. Several years later, on average, the children had the size of a brain area called the hippocampus measured using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). After taking into account a whole range of factors that can affect hippocampal size, the researchers found that children with especially nurturing, caring mothers, based on their behavior during the laboratory stressor, had significantly larger hippocampi (plural of hippocampus – you’ve got one on each side of the brain) than kids with mothers who were average or poor nurturers.
Why is this finding important? Because more than any place else in the brain, when it comes to the hippocampus, size matters. Other things being equal, having small hippocampi increases your risk for all sorts of troubles, from depression and post traumatic stress disorder to Alzheimer’s disease. If you’ve got depression, having small hippocampi predicts that you won’t respond as well to antidepressants as well as depressed people with larger hippocampi to antidepressants.
Image: Boy cuddling with his mother, via Shutterstock.