Ok quick announcement before I get started with the regularly scheduled blog for today. For all my loyal followers (I know there are a few of you out there) I have had to make the executive decision to switch my blogging day from Monday to Tuesday due to my little guy deciding he no longer needs naps and being in a preschool program on Tuesday mornings. So from now on, look for blog posts on Tuesday, end of announcement!
I don’t think I have really posted much on here about the new group that I have started. I was lucky enough to get to present to the Space Coast Birth Network on this subject on Friday and wanted to finish the presentation before I started posting about all my research (I feel a blog series coming!) If you haven’t already guessed, my new group is a pregnancy support group. In Brevard County, where I am, there are no support groups and only a few programs in place for pregnant women, especially ones who are not having a high risk pregnancy or at high risk for other things. So obviously there was a void in the area but why might you ask did I feel the need to fill it? Well, it was due to research that I had been reading.
To recap some of the research very quickly, a new field has emerged called fetal origins that states that everything a woman is exposed to while pregnant can effect her baby’s health and mental health throughout the baby’s entire lifespan. Of course I’m no medical doctor but I found this to be amazing and wanted to do something to help women create healthier individuals. So, the mental health piece of this for me is stress, or helping women to reduce the amount of stress they are exposed to as a result of circumstances, depression, anxiety and so forth through relaxation techniques and support in order to minimize the amount of cortisol the fetus is exposed to. Fetal origins is still pretty new to the research scene and there haven’t been a lot of studies on these specific factors but here is one article that talks about how extreme levels of cortisol effect the fetus.
Another related topic that has been studied is how to prevent mental health disorders during and after pregnancy. The childbearing years for women is when they are most likely to experience anxiety and depression. I will go a bit more in detail in another blog entry but suffice it to say that hormones can play a big part in flipping the switch for some women who are predisposed to these disorders. When a women becomes pregnant or shortly after she has her baby, she is especially likely to experience a mood episode or a bout of anxiety as well as other possible disorders. Knowing that we cannot change one of the main causes, hormones, it has been important to find other ways to reduce the chances of these disorders being experienced by pregnant and postnatal women.
One of the biggest factors that has been proven to be helpful in greatly reducing this risk is support during and after pregnancy. Think about it, it can be a very stressful time in one’s life with a multitude of changes ocurring and other people having strong views and not always correct information and this can cause a lot of pressure for a soon to be or new mom. Add to the mix that mom is likely to be home, trying to keep baby away from germs and dad will go back to work within a short amount of time and she is likely to feel lonely and isolated. Combine this with the hormone changes and it can very well be a recipe for depression and anxiety. As I stated, however, women who have an increased amount of support are better able to deal with this and are less likely to feel lonely and isolated. Support starts becoming a protective factor during pregnancy in order to reduce the likelihood of postpartum depression. This is very important considering once a person experiences an episode of major depression they are more likely to experience another one in the future. You can get this support from friends, family, church, or a formal group such as the one I have started.
My pregnancy support group is designed to specifically help create the sense of support needed to reduce the risk of postpartum depression when attended regularly. The group begins with a guided imagery or relaxation technique and then is opened up for each member to have a chance to talk about whatever they desire and to receive feedback and advice from the group as needed. The group then closes with an assignment that will help to increase the level of mother-fetal bonding. If you are in the Brevard County area, you can attend this group on Thursdays from 6-7pm at Discovery Institute, P.A. in Rockledge. The first session is free and each additional session is $10. No need to R.S.V.P., you can just stop in!