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Babies ’ Category
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
Our answer–as well as that of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)–has always been that certain medications, namely selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are safe enough to consider taking during pregnancy. What’s more, it can be of greater risk to a baby to be born to a mother suffering from severe depression, because she may have trouble taking care of herself during pregnancy, and may be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and to smoke, perhaps as a way to combat stress.
But a compelling New York Times piece outlines several pieces of recent research that seem to raise more questions about the safety of SSRIs. Increasingly, connections are found between women who take them and babies who go on to be born premature, to be diagnosed with autism, to have ADHD, and to have language difficulties. We asked ACOG whether these studies should change the current thinking, and the answer at this point is: No.
“Broad, sweeping policy should not be made based on these kinds of findings,” says ACOG spokesperson Aaron Caughey, M.D., professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland. “We are concerned about these associations, but the evidence is inadequate.” Nothing yet points to a direct link between the medications and problems later on.
Dr. Caughey walked me through what would produce good evidence: “You’d take a really big group of women with major depression–say, 10,000–and randomize them into two groups, prior to pregnancy. For half, we’d wean them off their medication, and have them try other things to help their depression.” (He’s referring to approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, acupuncture.) The other half of the women would stay on their medication. Then in five years, all of the women’s children would be evaluated not only for their physical health, but their IQ scores and their behavior and development.
“You can imagine the problems in designing a study like this,” he continued. “First, you’d have to identify the women who are going to be pregnant–which would be overwhelmingly expensive. Then you’d have to get certain women to agree to go off their meds, which could be difficult; on the other hand, you’d have other women saying, ‘I’ve read the research–I’m stopping the meds.’ There are big challenges to conducting the right, well-designed research. So instead we end up doing a lot of small studies that aren’t able to find any cause-and-effect, but point to associations, which aren’t definitive.”
Dr. Caughey believes that articles like the NYT piece serve as as good reminder of how crucial it is for every woman to discuss the risks and benefits of antidepressants with her doctor or midwife–ideally before becoming pregnant. It’s worth asking whether there’s a different medication you can be on, or other ways of treating your depression that don’t involve meds at all. Of course, it will always depend on your situation, and for some women it may not be possible to go off medication.
The bottom line, says Dr. Caughey: “This is a really good issue to talk about with your provider. It’s incredibly important, and for each woman the answer will be different.”
Photo: Pregnant woman taking medication via Shutterstock.
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Monday, August 18th, 2014
From left, guest Castiglia with the Pump and Dump moms
Social media has made humor a constant undercurrent in the average mom’s day, but it can be beyond therapeutic to get together with real friends “IRL” as my kids would say and watch something funny happen right before your eyes. That’s the beauty of The Pump and Dump show, which a few of us from Parents caught in New York City not long ago. There is something about seeing other moms (and a few brave dads) laughing uncontrollably at the same crazy stuff that you’ve noticed happening in your own life that is very freeing–and more powerful than getting your laughs watching YouTube.
The PND team, Shayna Ferm, a comedian and mother of two, and MC Doula (aka Tracey Tee), mother of one, host an evening packed with inappropriate lyrics set to live music, games (such as a motherhood-themed version of “Never Have I Ever”) and other audience interaction, and often a local guest comic who is also a mom. In New York it was the hilarious Carolyn Castiglia, whose riff on dating as a single mom was upstaged only by her own freestyle rap to audience members’ anonymously contributed confessions of “The Most F—-d Up Thing My Kid Did This Week.” (See a sample of mom confessions here.)
Ferm and her “coach” MC Doula are on tour now, leaving their kids at home in Denver, so join their audience of “breeders” (their words) if you can. Songs include “Eat Your F—ing Food,” and “When I Die, I Want to Come Back as a Dad.” Yes, the F word features prominently here. I was counting the number of times it was used but was laughing so hard I lost track. Underlying the irreverent lyrics is a message of acceptance for all our many mommy shortcomings and an embrace of all kinds of mom. “We have placenta-eating moms and moms who’ve never even tried a cloth diaper. We just all have to remember that we are doing the best that we can,” Ferm said at one point. Or, to quote her lyrics: “You’re an awesome mom and you’re not alone. You’re doing fine. Just pour yourself a whiskey during bath time.”
Can’t get to Chicago, Mill Valley, or Denver, where the show is playing this fall? Download the tunes, gather a few friends, decide on a signature cocktail and have a listening party. Keep the tissues handy—you’ll laugh until you cry.
Here’s a video from another fun mom, Honest Toddler’s Bunmi Laditan:
What’s your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out!
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Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
Every summer I have the same problem: My children, who attend a day camp at our town pool, get way too much sun, particularly on their face. I’ve begged the counselors, the camp director, and my girls themselves to please reapply frequently. (Constantly’s more like it, since they’re in and out of a pool all day.) I’ve tried a variety of sunscreen sticks, and they wear hats, and the director has made sure that on especially sunny days, the girls spend more time in the shade. Everyone takes it seriously, and yet the girls still often come home with pinker faces than I’m comfortable with.
As we explained in our most recent story about sun safety, the best sunscreen contains zinc oxide, but my kids–particularly my almost-9-year-old–understandably feel self-conscious arriving at camp with a bright white face. And I am never not in a rush getting them to camp and catching my train to work, so any face sunscreen I use has to blend in quickly. So a zinc-based sunscreen hasn’t been an option.
Then a tube of ZBlok sunscreen landed on my desk. ZBlok contains clear zinc. It protects against UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. It doesn’t sting. And it rubs in easily! The lotion goes on more clear than the stick, so I need to spend a bit more time than usual rubbing it in. But it’s more than worth it: This past week has been the first where I haven’t cringed at least once upon seeing my children’s faces after camp.
You’re probably wondering how much it costs. A 4-oz. tube is $14.95; a 2-oz. tube and a stick each cost $9.95. (Shipping is free.) $10 for a sunscreen stick is about twice what I’ve been paying all summer, but then again, those products weren’t doing the trick for us anyway.
This discovery came just in time, as we’re going on a beach vacation on Saturday. Now that I’m the one in charge of the sunscreen all day, I’m so relieved to at last have the right tool in my arsenal!
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Thursday, July 31st, 2014
Whenever I need a quick, mindless break from life and work, I like to scroll through Instagram. Among pictures of majestic London cityscapes and my friends’ adorable
cats and new apartment decor, I happened upon a picture of a newborn baby , who had tubes connected to him in every place imaginable. My heart broke as I read the photo’s caption.
The baby’s mother, Amelia Barnes, recounted the tragic highlights of her son’s birth. On July 8, Amelia was due to give birth to a healthy baby boy. But the baby’s heart rate monitor start going off after eight hours of labor. Amelia had an emergency C-section. Seven minutes later, Landon was born, but his heart still wasn’t beating. Medical personnel resuscitated him after 15 minutes, but his brain and kidneys began to fail along with his heart.
After two days, Landon was removed from life support and shocked his parents by living for 17 more hours. In those magical hours, Amelia and her husband, Justin, were able to have a photo shoot with their son, and Amelia shared many on her Instagram and blog called Landon’s Legacy. Looking through the beautiful family photos, you almost forget the baby has never cried, will never meet the family dog or leave the hospital in a car seat.
Amelia isn’t the only person who has experienced such a loss. With the power of Instagram, she was able to connect with other people in similar situations and create a virtual support system.
In addition to helping others heal with her, Amelia is creating a dialogue on postpartum bodies with the help of social media channels like Instagram. In a world where celebrities grace covers with instantly thin post-baby bodies, Amelia’s photos of her still-swollen belly are refreshing and honest. Even as a woman who has never given birth myself, I’m inspired by her body confidence — even during the hardest time of her life.
Instagram can be more than a way to pass time. Filtered photos and hashtags can reach across the world to tell her story to people she will never meet. To read more about Landon’s Legacy, visit http://ameliakyoga.tumblr.com/.
Image: Red heart with cross sign in female hand, close-up, on light background via Shutterstock
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Monday, July 21st, 2014
The arrest of a South Carolina mom on charges that she left her 9-year-old daughter alone in the park while she went to work has sparked a furor over her decision and whether it was appropriate to arrest her for it. It’s far from the only instance of a parent doing something dangerous, even allegedly criminal, in order to go to work when there’s no childcare available. I wrote in December about a California woman who lost custody of her son—permanently—after leaving him alone in his crib one workday. And I am sure there are countless other parents facing similar dilemmas every day.
For women who need to work and don’t have reliable childcare, what are the options? Even Michelle Obama faced a similar dilemma in her past, recently making headlines for her recollections of bringing young Sasha along on a job interview.
That South Carolina mom, Deba Harrell, faced a no-win choice, as my colleague Lisa Milbrand wrote: “to let her daughter play in a park alone, leave her at home, or bring her to work, where she was forced to hang out for hours in McDonald’s with little to engage her. Debra picked the park.” Home seemed more dangerous and would also likely have led to Harrell’s arrest, while having a child at work all day seems like a recipe for getting fired for needing to care for her while on the job (and hardly seems like a healthy environment for a child).
A lot of the discussion about Harrell’s case has focused on how protective and hovering parents should be, and whether we as a society have gone too far in “criminalizing” parenthood, as Radley Balko of the Washington Post put it.
But as essential as that debate is, there is another, related issue that these cases raise, and that is the question of affordable childcare. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat begins to address this in his latest column, questioning a “a welfare system whose work requirements can put a single mother behind a fast-food counter while her kid is out of school.” He concludes that “we have to also find a way to defend their liberty as parents, instead of expecting them to hover like helicopters and then literally arresting them if they don’t.”
But Douthat stops short of taking his argument to its natural conclusion. Affordable, reliable, and safe childcare is a necessary component of a functioning society, especially one that expects—requires, even—parents to work. And so we need to figure out a way to guarantee it to all working parents. In Europe, “all European countries offer government subsidies and regulation support to early childhood care,” according to the European Union’s website. “These measures include tax breaks, vouchers, subsidies paid to parents or to the care provider; and in several European countries, capping of childcare costs relative to household income, or by obliging employers to support childcare costs (for instance in the Netherlands).”
I don’t know what form this sort of policy should take here in the United States, but whether it’s tax breaks or subsidies or publicly funded day-care centers or something else entirely, without addressing this problem, we will see many more Debra Harrells.
I also don’t want to let the absent dads off the hook. While moms like Harrell are arrested and may lose custody of their children, nothing is asked of the dads. Granted, many are not in the picture at all; but where they are or can be found, I don’t know why they are not required to be part of the solution, financial or otherwise, or why they don’t share the blame for alleged neglect and other decisions.
Our public policy must recognize the realities of today’s families, especially the huge number of single parents (and the correlation between single parenthood and poverty). In addition, many families today lack the extensive familial and social networks that may have, in the past, provided (free) childcare so mom and/or dad could work. This is not just a problem for the very poor. There is nothing optional about working for most people trying to support their kids, and childcare could easily be beyond a single parent’s means. As parents, most of us have said things to our kids like, “I don’t have eyes in the back of my head,” or, “I can’t be in two places at once.” For the single moms who must be at work in order to feed their families but have no one else to supervise their children, these are not flippant throw-away lines; they are realities that we as a society must help fix.
Considering day care? Download our Daycare Center Checklist to help you evaluate your options.
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