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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.
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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.
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Thursday, January 5th, 2012
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement this week urging pediatricians to ask questions–and listen carefully–to identify warning signs that children are suffering under “toxic stress,” a chronic stress condition that can have serious health implications later in life.
Toxic stress is different from everyday stress, as it is the result of prolonged exposure to intensely difficult situations, such as abusive or neglectful family relationships, poverty, or parental substance abuse or mental illness. Health conditions including mental illness, obesity, diabetes and heart disease are linked to toxic stress.
The Boston Globe’s child development blogger, Dr. Claudia M. Gold, argues that the new statement should be seen as a call to respect–both with time and wages–the work of primary care physicians, particularly pediatricians, as they can be the first line of defense in identifying and easing toxic stress:
As a culture we need to value the primary care clinician, not only in the form of payment equal to the more lucrative subspecialties, but in the form of recognizing the role of relationships in healing. It makes sense that if we are recognizing the importance of family relationships in preventing poor health outcomes, that we should recognize the importance of doctor-patient relationships in supporting these families.
When primary care clinicians take time to carefully listen to stressed parents, parents feel supported in their efforts to carefully listen to their children, thus promoting healthy development. In turn, our culture needs to support and value primary care clinicians ( and its not only pediatricians, the subject of this policy statement, but all those entrusted with primary care of children.)
Image: Upset child, via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, December 14th, 2011
Everyone has their own ways of coping with the stresses of modern motherhood, and a new survey commissioned by Ivory, the soap made by consumer products company Procter & Gamble, has found that as many as 66 percent of moms admit to hiding out in the bathroom just to get some quiet time.
The survey, which was based on data collected from 1,000 mothers, reports other findings on what overwhelms moms the most, and how they cope including:
- 75 percent of moms feel pressure to make every daily experience a “teachable moment” for their children.
- More than 60 percent of moms said that filling out tax returns is less complicated than their children’s math homework.
- Moms say they receive parenting advice more than 3 times each week, regardless of whether they’ve asked for it.
- 83 percent of working moms say they have the harder job; 60 percent of stay-at-home moms say the same.
Image: Woman relaxing in bathtub, via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, August 11th, 2011
A survey of more than 26,000 American mothers reveals that many moms feel overwhelmed in ways they usually don’t discuss in public. The “Mom Confessions” study was conducted by TODAY.com, the online home of the NBC morning program, and Parenting.com, the website of Parenting and Babytalk magazines.
Among the findings are “confessions” about secret desires to have “do-overs,” insecurities about the mothers’ weight, and candid admissions about how they judge other moms:
- If given the chance, 23% of moms would choose a different spouse/partner and 21% would have more children.
- Out of the moms who ever wished their child was the opposite sex, nearly two-thirds are moms of boys.
- Weight versus smarts: 45% of moms would choose to weigh 15 pounds less rather than add 15 points to their child’s IQ.
- Nearly 1 in 5 moms confessed to medicating their child to calm him/her down before a big trip — and nearly 1 in 12 do so on a regular night just for some peace and quiet.
- 49% have knowingly sent a sick child to daycare or school.
- More than 1 in 3 admits to judging moms of overweight kids.
- 43% judge moms who still breastfeed their toddlers.
According to TODAY Moms senior editor Rebecca Dube, “The revelations we uncovered in our survey should put a stake through the heart of the myth of the perfect mother. Moms everywhere are overwhelmed and they often feel like they’re the only ones — but our findings show that they’re not; everyone shares the same challenges.”
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