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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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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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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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
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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
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