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Perinatal Postpartum Anxiety – See the Signs and Find Treatment

If you took a poll of most pregnant women that come into our office, majority will report that they have heard about Baby Blues or Post Partum Depression (PPD) before, either from their pregnancy books, friends, or hopefully their OB.  Many will adamantly deny that they have Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression, because after all, this is supposed to be the happiest, most exciting time of their lives.  What many women don’t realize is that Perinatal Anxiety is just as common as PPD, and often coincides with each other as the symptoms are similar.
Perinatal Anxiety Defined
Perinatal anxiety is often dismissed,  as pregnancy and parenting both are anxiety provoking in and of themselves, so it’s reasonable that women struggle with increased anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum.  Because of this, very little research is done on perinatal anxiety independently from postpartum depression.

Perinatal anxiety can be classified into three different types: panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and/or generalized anxiety disorders.   It shares many of the same symptoms of PPD, such as: feeling overwhelmed, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, feelings of guilt or incompetence, excessive worry, etc.  Perinatal anxiety can also include panic attacks, hyperventilation, and repetitive intrusive thoughts or images of things happening to the baby.
The Anxiety of Facing the Unknown
New parents are always facing the unknown, and have repetitive worry and thoughts/concerns, such as: “Is my baby healthy?” “Is my baby normal; is he or she developing appropriately?”   These are all common concerns and questions to think and wonder about.  It becomes concerning when parents ruminate about these concerns, and they become intrusive or debilitating to a point that they interfere with your ability to care for the child, your relationship with the child or each other, […]

Fertility Friends: Finding Support through Shared Experiences

At the Blossom Method, we are proud to inspire those who struggle with infertility issues to seek the support that they need and deserve. One of the groups we refer our patients to is Shine: A Light on Fertility. Today, we have a guest post from Katie O’Connor, the founder of Shine, about what the program strives to accomplish.
Friendship and Advocacy
By: Katie O’Connor, Founder, Shine: A Light On Fertility

When you are going through a hard time, a good friend is what you need most.  It helps if the friend has experienced a similar struggle as you, and that is where Fertility Friends comes in—a new mentor program by Shine: A Light on Fertility.  Fertility Friends is a matching system that pairs a new member with someone who has successfully completed their fertility journey.  This program provides one-on-one support that can help with the day-to-day stresses of fertility treatments, and acts as a supplement to group sessions.  It allows the new member a chance to ask personal questions and get support from someone who has experienced similar challenges.  Fertility Friends can lend support and guidance to help new members navigate fertility treatment procedures as well as talk through options.  Mentors are sensitive to the new member’s journey, because they can closely relate to their experience.

Being your own advocate is important when going through any life challenge, but combining that with knowledge and awareness creates empowerment.  Shine puts a focus on early education and taking a proactive approach to one’s fertility health through their Advocacy Initiative.  Every woman knows that when they turn 40, it means the start of mammograms, and we are taught even earlier to start performing self-breast exams.  However, there is nothing like […]

Asking Pregnancy Questions: Do You Really Need to Know?

It breaks my heart–week after week, I meet with clients who are struggling with getting pregnant, a recent loss, or maybe a new pregnancy after previous losses. They’re making progress, but are suddenly completely derailed by a simple (yet unnecessary) question or comment from a stranger. I’d believe more often than not, the stranger has no ill intention by commenting or asking a question, but I would like to challenge everyone to consider what others may be going through that you don’t know about before speaking up. Just think: how often you have asked, or have heard someone ask, “When are you due?” or  “Are you guys trying to get pregnant?” or comment on someone’s cute baby bump?
The Importance of Consideration
Recently, I had a client (we’ll call her “Sarah”) who had just delivered her baby at 37 weeks, but the baby passed away shortly after birth.  Although Sarah was prepared prenatally for the loss of her daughter, the grief and overwhelming sadness was a lot for her and her husband to handle.  Two weeks after losing her baby girl, she decided she needed to face the world again and went to the grocery store. In a mere 30 minute trip, Sarah was approached by two strangers who made seemingly benign, yet very hurtful comments, given the situation.  The first asked when she was due – she was two weeks postpartum, so she naturally still had a “bump,” but she sadly did not have the baby.   After tearfully walking away from that stranger, she tried to summon the courage to get through her shopping list.  Then, as she was paying for her groceries, the cashier said, “Oh, I love your little bump – enjoy the […]

Pregnancy Termination Support for Genetic Testing and Complex Medical Diagnoses

I could barely understand what she was saying on the phone. Finally, her husband took the phone from her and spoke on her behalf.  “Jane Doe” had been given the all clear at her 19 week checkup and thought that everything was going fine with her pregnancy. However, a mix up at the lab confirmed that their baby had a severe heart defect along with chromosomal abnormalities.

Jane’s experience with her OB was less than stellar. Both she and her husband were recent transplants to the United States, and noted that where they come from, there is no such thing as changing doctors depending on new issues and needs—one doctor manages everything and all decisions go through that doctor. She felt, after the complex medical diagnosis, that her OB was rushing her out of the practice once it was realized that the baby would not make it to delivery and that the pregnancy would be terminated. She felt alone, isolated. Her OB gave her a phone number to call regarding what she should do next, then stepped out of the equation. He also gave Jane my phone number.
After the Testing and Diagnosis
In the state of Illinois, a pregnancy can legally be terminated under 24 weeks. Twenty-four weeks is the magic number; after that a patient looking to terminate would need to leave the state and travel elsewhere. Jane understood that time was not on her side.

Fortunately, I was able to help Jane navigate through the maze of doctors and providers who do this type of work and don’t make the patient feel even worse about their decision. Initially, Jane was not told that she had the option to have surgery where she would be put […]

Tips for Coping with Infertility and Finding Support

Infertility: it’s more common than we all think and for those who are dealing with it, it can be devastating. The pressure to have a family, for many people, is intense, and when it seems like that’s not possible, it seems inevitable that grief, depression, and frustration would be just a few of the emotions someone would experience. Many women struggle to feel truly happy for friends and loved ones when they announce a pregnancy, knowing that they are having trouble conceiving. Infertility, though common, is often kept quiet, for fear of bringing up a “sore” subject for someone.

Those who are experiencing it can feel very alone.  You’re not alone, though—and that’s something you’ve probably heard over and over. It’s true. Coping with infertility can be extremely difficult, but thankfully, there are methods and resources that can ease the pain, stress, and disappointment.
Don’t Blame Yourself
As with not being alone, you’ve likely been told, time and again, not to blame yourself.  However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hear it yet again. It’s easy to try and pinpoint all the things you’re doing wrong—

Are you eating the wrong things?
Or not sleeping enough?
What about stress? Is being stressed about infertility exacerbating the problem?

There are a million ways to blame yourself for being unable to conceive, and it’s important to resist doing so. Instead, try and feel centered in the moment – focus on what’s happening now, rather than what has already happened. Try and zero in on looking forward to the ways you can manage infertility, rather than criticizing yourself for being unable to get pregnant.
Set Realistic Expectations
If you’re struggling to conceive, it’s important to work with your partner to set realistic expectations of what you’ll do—will […]

A Parent’s Manual for NICU Admissions

Nowadays, we are able to Google everything, or at least find a book that gives us more information about what we’re going through in life.  As women become pregnant, they and their partners often turn to the Internet, reference books and even apps on their smartphones and tablets to guide them through each step of the process.  These resources can provide a lot of great information regarding what to expect throughout the pregnancy and delivery—if everything goes smoothly. But what do you do when things don’t go quite as you had planned or hoped, and your baby is admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)?
Online Resources: Incomplete NICU Parent Support
The bulk of the resources available only give guidance for pregnancies that go completely according to plan—the “ideal” pregnancy. What they don’t often tell you about are the various things that can go wrong—then again, it might be best that way, so as to not worry expectant mothers. That said, how many women plan on being put on bed rest, or developing preeclampsia during pregnancy? How many think they’ll have placenta previa or a premature delivery?  These resources often touch lightly on these topics and very briefly discuss the NICU.  Did you know that all babies born before 37 weeks are considered premature?  And that generally, all babies born before 35 weeks are automatically admitted to the NICU?
Neonatal ICU: Now What?
Premature delivery is stressful, and a baby’s admission to NICU is sometimes just the beginning of the roller coaster of emotions that some parents will experience.  There is first the excitement of meeting your little one, followed by the inevitable fear for the baby’s medical status and prognosis. New parents may then feel separation […]

Signs of Postpartum Depression and What You Can Do

Giving birth is a powerful experience, bringing with it a rollercoaster of emotions that range from intense excitement to fear, joy to anxiety. Some new mothers, however, may experience some other, more unexpected emotions—depression and sadness.  While the “baby blues” are not uncommon, and include feelings of sadness, mood swings, and crying spells, when these symptoms are intense or last more than two weeks, they may be signs of postpartum depression or anxiety. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, it’s important to know that you’re not alone and that there are things that you can do to help get your life back to “normal.”
What Are the Signs of PPD?
With the fluctuation of hormones that comes with giving birth to your new baby, it’s common to experience mood changes or have difficulty sleeping or concentrating. These symptoms, which may only last a day or two, are referred to as the “baby blues,” and balance out not long after giving birth. For some women, though, those symptoms intensify and last longer, eventually interfering with their ability to take care of their baby or get through everyday activities. It can be difficult to distinguish what might be simple hormone changes versus what could be part of a larger issue, but if you know the symptoms of postpartum depression, you’ve already taken the first step.

Knowing what signs to look for can help you determine when to seek treatment for postpartum depression. Combined with feelings of sadness, postpartum depression can be characterized by symptoms including:

Severe mood swings
Loss of appetite
Overwhelming tiredness and fatigue
Intense irritability or anger
Insomnia
Feelings of guilt, shame, or inadequacy
Loss of interest in sex
Withdrawal from family and friends
Difficulty bonding with your baby
Thoughts of harming […]

The 33rd Chapter – Coping with IVF, Complicated Genetic Testing & Pregnancy Loss

A regular at the Blossom Method with his Wife Mandy, Creative Director and new Author Justin Winget shares the final entry, “Lessons Learned,” of his forthcoming book, The Thirty Third Chapter. Documenting the couple’s journey back from harrowing 20 and 38 week pregnancy losses, the narrative began on July 12th 2013:  Justin’s 33rd birthday and exactly one year after they celebrated a positive pregnancy test for their later stillborn son Carter. Setting a pre-defined ending date just before the clock turned to his 34th birthday, Justin picked-up writing just as the couple stood on the verge of another go at their dreams of parenthood. With hopes of pregnancy after loss via IVF layered with complicated genetic testing for the same rare genetic condition which plagued their first pregnancy: PGS and PGD

Written as a form of self-therapy for coping with pregnancy losses, Justin shares the culmination of his efforts surrounding IVF and genetic testing in “Lessons Learned” – the first complete entry revealed to readers. Follow along on Facebook and the Blossom Method Blog for more excerpts, and keep on the lookout for the book release sometime in 2015!

The Final Entry:

As I laid restlessly in bed watching the clock on my nightstand slowly tick towards midnight, I rewound back through all the bittersweet memories that culminated in the 33rd chapter of my life. It was not a particularly great year with more valleys than peaks, but I acknowledge it was one I needed to endure. While it tested every last ounce of my resolve, it was the only path that led to that next unrelenting chapter as a Father…

When I started writing 365 days ago, I thought this would be a completely different story. Sitting on the […]

Unexpected Tragedies On My Reproductive Journey: You Never Know

~By Aviva Cohen, LCSW & Co-Founder of The Blossom Method

When I tell people I work with women and couples struggling with infertility, loss, postpartum depression and other tragic scenarios during their reproductive journeys, I almost always get the same questions: How can you do something like that every day? Isn’t it depressing? My response never wavers. Providing support to women and couples is my professional calling and I am inspired by my clients each and every day.

Perhaps part of the reason I’m drawn to this work is because I straddle both worlds. I had my first three children with ease. I wanted to get pregnant, and poof, it happened. My pregnancies were relatively normal and the deliveries easy. Then I rolled the dice again and discovered just how lucky I’d been.

During my eighteenth week of pregnancy, I found out the baby inside of me had died. In an instant, my hopes and dreams for that unborn baby were dashed. I felt blindsided, confused, shocked and terrified. My doctor sent me to specialists, and then washed his hands of me. I was no longer a patient he wanted to treat. During this vulnerable time, I became lost in a maze of hospitals, doctors and nurses. I felt afraid and very much alone.

In my mind, I decided that if I got pregnant again before my due date, the pain deep inside of me would disappear. I quickly conceived again, but this time, at my nine-week checkup, the baby had no heartbeat. That was it for me. I had nowhere to go, no one to talk to, and no one who understood how I felt. When I tried to talk about the loss with friends or family, they told […]