Pregnant women are notorious worriers. They fret over prenatal tests, maternity leave, baby names, labor, sleeping arrangements for their new arrival, child care, even food cravings. But generally their biggest worry is whether they’ll have a healthy baby. Not to worry. The odds are sky-high that when your child is born, she’ll be the picture of good health. But you can push those odds even higher by taking good care of yourself before and during pregnancy.
Perhaps it can, according to two recent studies. A British survey of more than 14,000 moms found that babies born to women who were deemed clinically anxious during pregnancy were 40 percent more likely to have such sleep problems as trouble falling asleep or waking too early at 6, 18 and 30 months of age.
Trang Burnett describes herself as rational and not prone to knee-jerk emotional reactions. Yet, when the Tampa, Fla., mother was pregnant with now-2-year-old son Bryson, all bets on her moods were off. "TV commercials really affected me—happy or sad, they always made me cry," recalls Burnett, 36.
Sound familiar? While pregnant, you will experience a gamut of emotions—many of which may be completely new to you. After delivery, the emotional roller coaster ride continues.
Indirectly, perhaps. Research suggests that birth outcomes can be influenced by whether a woman's pregnancy was wanted, unwanted or "mis-timed" or if she simply felt ambivalent about it. Women with unwanted pregnancies were more likely to deliver preterm, and ambivalence increased the odds of having a preterm or low-birth-weight baby. Women whose pregnancies were wanted but "mis-timed" were less likely to have a low-birth-weight baby. Expectant women should seek the emotional care and support they need, advises study author Anshu Mohllajee, M.P.H., of the Harvard School of Public Health.
It's possible. Researchers have found evidence that prenatal use of at least one antidepressant--Paxil--increases the risk of congenital heart malformation. Other studies have found associations between late-pregnancy use of antidepressants and short-term complications in newborns, including jitteriness and respiratory distress. But not treating a mother's severe depression can also harm the fetus.
One in three women with inconsolable babies reports feeling depressed, says research on nearly 3,000 new moms. "I see a lot of fussy babies," says researcher Pamela High, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I., "and the mothers are worried, anxious, tired and depressed." High's study is the first to establish a link between colic and postpartum depression in a demographically diverse group of women. She advises a new mom to recruit others to help, and to set aside time every day to be off-duty.
Undergoing fertility treatment is stressful enough, but women who conceive via in vitro fertilization (IVF) might have more tough times ahead once they become moms. While only 1.5 percent of women in the general population undergo IVF, Australian researchers found that 6 percent of women who sought help for postpartum depression and early-parenting problems had conceived using this method. Women who get pregnant with IVF should be forewarned that they could need additional support after delivery.
One-on-one emotional support after delivery may be a good way to avoid PPD. Women who have a history of depression, are under stress or lack social support are most at risk, but a review of 15 studies shows that the condition can be prevented in such women. The analysis found that receiving individual assessment and weekly support from a health professional after delivery reduced the risk. Group therapy and prenatal preventive strategies weren't as effective.
Feeling exhausted on the 14th day after giving birth makes it 50 percent more likely a new mom will suffer from postpartum depression by day 28, according to a new study. To prevent fatigue, study author Elizabeth Corwin, Ph.D., advises that all new mothers, not just nursing moms, continue taking prenatal vitamins for at least three months and that they ask their doctors to check their iron level. "In some studies, women with increased fatigue were anemic," she says, "and if they weren't anemic, they had low iron." Pain control also helps combat fatigue.