The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Especially in this economy, it’s no wonder you’re stressed out about money: Children are expensive. In fact, having a baby is the leading cause of “poverty spells” when a family’s income can no longer cover basic living expenses, according to research by Momsrising (momsrising.org), an online and grass-roots organization promoting economic security for families. This is especially true if one parent has recently lost a job. While this information is frightening, don’t panic: Planning can help, says Eric Brotman, a Baltimore-based financial planner and author of Debt-Free for Life (One Hour Or Less Publishing). He suggests these three steps:
Build A Budget That Includes The Costs Of A Baby. Brotman estimates this to be $9,000 to $11,000 a year, depending on where you live. If you’ll need paid day care, your expenses will, of course, be higher. Figure out ways to save money—by breastfeeding rather than using formula, for example, and by buying baby clothes and select gear at thrift stores, consignment shops and garage sales. (your baby won’t know—or care.)
Use Tracking Software. Quicken and Mint (mint.com), which is online and free, are good choices. “It’s imperative to know what you’re spending,” Brotman says. “You have to know where you are in order to know where you are going.”
Eliminate Existing Debt. If possible Brotman recommends using a debt-reduction planner, such as Quicken’s. Credit counseling services can be a good idea, but he warns that finding reputable agencies can be difficult, so do your homework. You can find a list of government-approved organizations at usdoj.gov/ust.
No matter the root cause of your anxiety, research shows these tried-and-true activities will make you less anxious and stressed.
Yoga: Yoga lessens depression and anxiety, according to a 2010 Boston University School of Medicine study. Scientists found higher levels of the amino acid GABA in people who practiced yoga three times a week for 12 weeks, but not in others doing the equivalent amount of strenuous exercise, such as walking. GABA helps promote a state of calm within the body, and low levels are connected with depression and anxiety disorders.
Meditation: A 2010 Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital study showed that 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day resulted in decreased activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain connected to anxiety and stress. If you think 30 minutes is too long to keep your mind from wandering, try a defined meditation, such as Guided Mindfulness Meditation (Hyperion), an audio CD by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.
CBT: Cognitive-Behavorial Therapy (CBT) can teach you how to think more realistically so that fearful or stress-inducing thoughts, such as I can’t afford a baby, don’t build into chronic anxiety. Guided by a trained therapist, you exam- ine the thoughts that underlie those feelings and determine whether or not they really make sense. If not, you can replace them with more realistic thoughts. A therapist can lead you to understand that babies don’t have to be as expensive as you might fear.
If you’ve been taking drugs for anxiety, depression or other psychological problems, the impulse is to stop abruptly when you find out you’re pregnant. This is the wrong way to go. “The jury is still out on whether psychotropic meds like antidepressants should be discontinued when a woman is pregnant,” says James La Rossa Jr., publisher and editorial director of Medworks Media, whose journals have chronicled government and industry studies on this subject for the last two decades.
“Whatever you do, don’t discontinue your medication abruptly, as dangerous side effects can occur,” he adds. “It is best to [taper off] slowly with the guidance of your OB-GYN, psychiatrist or family doctor.” Also, don’t start taking a nutraceutical like St. John’s Wort, La Rossa says. “The effects such products may have on the fetus are completely unknown. If faced with the choice, it would be far safer to stick with your antidepressant, since pharmaceuticals have been studied and scrutinized far more closely than herbs or vitamins.”