November 17, 2010 – Blogging to Promote Awareness of Premature Births

I wrote this last night and should’ve posted it last night…thought I’d have a chance to do so during the day today, but I was wrong.  Boy, it has been a rough few weeks at work.   Today was another day where I only had time to visit the ladies’ room once.  But at least I had a chance to grab lunch, which is better than yesterday (no lunch and 1 visit to the restroom).  TMI, I know….

Because I am exhausted and otherwise tied up right now, I can’t come up with a fresh blog post for Prematurity Awareness Day, so I’m just going to direct you to my blog post from last year, still just as relevant, plus the one from last week

These posts contain a lot of links to help you learn more on how you can help and why it’s so, so important to promote awareness of premature births.

As always, thank you for dropping by!

November is Prematurity Awareness Month – Join in blogging efforts to raise awareness on November 17, 2010

Premature birth is the #1 killer of newborns during the first month of life.  Each year 20 million babies–half of a million of them in the US– are born premature.  A baby that is born too early is not fully developed and thus cannot even suck and/or breathe on his/her own.   It’s simply heartbreaking.  

For those that survive the first year, all too many end up facing serious health challenges and lifelong disabilities.  What is alarming is the fact that the rate of premature birth is increasing (i.e., it has increased > 30% since 1981).  In half the cases, the cause of premature birth is not known, which is why we need to unite in our effort to raise awareness, raise funding and promote research efforts to prevent premature births! 

Here are a couple of things you can do to help promote awareness of this crisis:

1.      November is Prematurity Awareness Month®.  If you are a blogger, please grab a badge and post it on your blog for the month, as well as join other bloggers on November 17th to raise awareness of this crisis.   You can join in this event at Bloggers Unite and at the March of Dimes site.

2.  Ask your U.S. Senators to support the PREEMIE Act (S. 3906), a bill designed to increase research and education on preterm birth, by sending a letter to your Senators and tell them to act quickly on this March of Dimes priority.  To see details of the bill, click here.

3.  Sign up for advocacy alerts, which is a great way to stay informed on legislative developments.

Some of you who have been following my blog for some time and read my blog post last year on the same topic, the following is a reiteration, which I’m including again because I think it’s highly relevant……

What’s premature birth got to do with perinatal mood disorders, you ask?  Well, for starters, approximately 1 out of 10 women experience antepartum (antenatal, prenatal) depression (or depression during pregnancy), though unfortunately many cases go undiagnosed.  Research has shown that preterm births are twice as likely to occur for women suffering from prenatal depression (or depression during pregnancy). To complicate matters, antidepressants to treat prenatal depression have also been shown to contribute to premature births.  And let’s not forget that there is a high risk for postpartum depression (PPD) in women who give birth to premature babies, not only for those with prenatal depression—since depression during pregnancy in most cases will follow into postpartum—but also because the amount of anxiety, stress and exhaustion caused by having a baby in the NICU for an extended period of time can lead to PPD. 

In Deborah Sichel’s and Jeanne Watson Driscoll’s “Women’s Moods: What Every Woman Must Know About Hormones, the Brain, and Emotional Health” (pg 178),  “Anxiety, whether mild or severe, can…..harm the fetus.”  Per Sichel and Driscoll, high levels of anxiety can cause premature births, stillbirths, low birth weight babies, and other complications due to the reduced blood flow, and therefore flow of oxygen and nutrition, to the fetus that results from the constriction of arteries in the uterus when the mother experiences high levels of anxiety.  You need to be aware, if you don’t already know, that the fetus is connected to you via the placenta.  The fetus is basically a part of you.  Just as all the nutrition you get from your food passes between you and the fetus through the placenta, medicine that you take will pass through to the fetus.  Similarly, stress hormones in a woman’s bloodstream from chronic anxiety will flow through the placenta.  In severe cases, stress hormones can cause blood vessels in the placenta to contract so much that it can pull away from the uterine wall, causing hemorrhaging and premature labor.

BOTTOM LINE:  Depression during pregnancy can lead to premature labor and delivery, not to mention low birth weight babies.  Since antepartum depression and antidepressants can cause premature births, more research is URGENTLY needed for the early detection and treatment of prenatal depression, as well as to find ways to treat prenatal depression without harming the developing baby.

November 17, 2009 – Blogging to Promote Awareness of Premature Births

They say that the reason for nearly half of all the preterm births–which amounts to 10 million babies– that occur each year is unknown.   While thanks to the miracles of modern technology and medicine, many preterm babies are nursed to health, the rate of preterm births is increasing, and all too many that are nursed to health face lifelong challenges.  Per the Bloggers Unite site, the rate has increased 31% since 1981.  Per the March of Dimes website, one in eight babies born in the U.S. is premature (coincidentally, postpartum depression rate is one in eight new mothers), and  the rate of premature birth in America is higher than that of most other developed nations).   I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if there’s a correlation between the increase in preterm births and the increase in fertility issues (refer to past post on infertility and anxiety/depression).

Just as PPD is more common that you realize, depression during pregnancy—or antepartum (or antenatal) depression—is more common than you realize.  Again, due to the lack of public education about this kind of perinatal depression, many women do not seek treatment because they think that feeling tired, having trouble sleeping, and experiencing mood swings, irritability, anxiety and weepiness are normal pregnancy experiences.  The key indicators of PPD—namely, persistent and debilitating sadness and other symptoms that interfere with your ability to function for longer than two weeks—would also apply to antepartum depression and should prompt you to seek help immediately.  

In Perinatal Depression: Hiding in Plain Sight – The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. August 2007; 52(8), page 483 by Shari I. Lusskin, MD, Tara M. Pundiak, MD, Sally M. Habib, MD:

  • “[The] patient with antenatal depression often worsens postpartum in the setting of sleep deprivation and the stress of caring for the newborn.”  As I’d mentioned in my 11/9 post, since approximately 50% of women with antepartum depression will go on to develop PPD, you will need to decide—in consultation with your doctor—whether to take medication.  Whether to take antidepressant medication or undergo some form of alternative medicine (including therapy) while pregnant is a hard one to make and also depends on the severity of your depression–not to mention, taking into consideration the impact on the developing fetus.  Avoiding treatment altogether will only expose your developing baby to the effects of untreated depression and increase your risk for pregnancy complications and premature birth.  There is risk that untreated depression and anxiety during pregnancy can lead to poor nutrition from loss of appetite, self medication through substance abuse (drinking, smoking or drugs), and/or suicidal thoughts/behaviors.  Preterm births, low birth weight, smaller head circumference, developmental problems, and even infant deaths have been associated with anxiety and depression during pregnancy. 
  • Signs of fetal distress (i.e., alterations in heart rate variability, fetal movement patterns, fetal sleep-wake cycles) have been detected in pregnant women during their 2nd and 3rd trimester obstetrical visits, and studies seem to indicate that 2nd trimester anxiety may have a negative impact on fetal brain development.
  • “The fetuses of highly anxious mothers who had also scored high on depression and anger measures also had growth delays, compared with the fetuses of mothers with less anxiety.  Findings at birth for the same cohort included lower dopamine and serotonin levels, lower vagal tone [which is linked with poor emotion regulation and vulnerability to stress in infancy and childhood].  At age 8 months, infants exposed to antenatal anxiety were found to be highly reactive, to have poorer interactions with their mothers, and to have poorer scores on Bayley Scales of Infant Development [which is a standard series of measurements used to assess motor, language, and cognitive development of infants and toddlers ages 0-3].  At age 24 months, they were also reported by their mothers to have more sleeping, activity, and feeding problems.”

As I mentioned in my November 9th post, 1 out of 10 women experience antepartum (antenatal, prenatal) depression (or depression during pregnancy), though unfortunately many cases go undiagnosed, and as mentioned over at Postpartum Progress, research has shown that preterm births are twice as likely to occur for women suffering from prenatal depression (or depression during pregnancy).  Given the correlation between antepartum depression and preterm births, there should be an increase in public awareness of antepartum depression and not just of postpartum depression, which you hear so much more about—relatively speaking—than depression during pregnancy.  The following are needed if we hope to reduce the number of preterm births due to antepartum depression:

  • increase in public awareness and destigmatization associated with perinatal mood disorders, so women will recognize when there is a problem and seek treatment without hesitation
  • increase in research for earlier detection of antepartum depression
  • increase in research into safer/improved treatment options for antepartum depression. 
  • increase in public awareness of the effects of stress (and provide the spectrum of the range of stressors) on pregnancy

For more information about antepartum depression, check out this March of Dimes page and the Beyond Postpartum blog.

For more information about efforts to promote awareness of premature births, visit the Bloggers Unite and March of Dimes websites.  Many bloggers share their stories on the Bloggers Unite site.  There’s also the touching story about Charlotte.

Calling All Bloggers! November is Prematurity Awareness Month – Join in blogging efforts to raise awareness on November 17, 2009

Premature birth is the #1 killer of newborns during the first month of life.  Each year 20 million babies–half of a million of them in the US– are born premature.  A baby that is born too early is not fully developed and thus cannot even suck and/or breathe on his/her own.   It’s simply heartbreaking.  

For those that survive the first year, all too many end up facing serious health challenges and lifelong disabilities.  What is alarming is the fact that the rate of premature birth is increasing (i.e., it has increased 31% since 1981).  In half the cases, the cause of premature birth is not known, which is why we need to unite in our effort to raise awareness, raise funding and promote research efforts to prevent premature births!

If you are a blogger, here are a couple of things you can do to help promote awareness of this crisis:

1.      November is Prematurity Awareness Month®.  Please grab a badge and post it on your blog for the month.

2.      On Tuesday, November 17th, please join others to blog about and raise awareness of this crisis.   You can join in this event at Bloggers Unite and at the March of Dimes site.

What’s premature birth got to do with perinatal mood disorders, you ask?  Well, for starters, approximately 1 out of 10 women experience antepartum (antenatal, prenatal) depression (or depression during pregnancy), though unfortunately many cases go undiagnosed.  Research has shown that preterm births are twice as likely to occur for women suffering from prenatal depression (or depression during pregnancy). To complicate matters, antidepressants to treat prenatal depression have also been shown to contribute to premature births.  And let’s not forget that there is a high risk for postpartum depression (PPD) in women who give birth to premature babies, not only for those with prenatal depression—since depression during pregnancy in most cases will follow into postpartum—but also because the amount of anxiety, stress and exhaustion caused by having a baby in the NICU for an extended period of time can lead to PPD. 

In Deborah Sichel’s and Jeanne Watson Driscoll’s “Women’s Moods: What Every Woman Must Know About Hormones, the Brain, and Emotional Health” (pg 178),  “Anxiety, whether mild or severe, can…..harm the fetus.”  Per Sichel and Driscoll, high levels of anxiety can cause premature births, stillbirths, low birth weight babies, and other complications due to the reduced blood flow, and therefore flow of oxygen and nutrition, to the fetus that results from the constriction of arteries in the uterus when the mother experiences high levels of anxiety.  You need to be aware, if you don’t already know, that the fetus is connected to you via the placenta.  The fetus is basically a part of you.  Just as all the nutrition you get from your food passes between you and the fetus through the placenta, medicine that you take will pass through to the fetus.  Similarly, stress hormones in a woman’s bloodstream from chronic anxiety will flow through the placenta.  In severe cases, stress hormones can cause blood vessels in the placenta to contract so much that it can pull away from the uterine wall, causing hemorrhaging and premature labor.

BOTTOM LINE:  Depression during pregnancy can lead to premature labor and delivery, not to mention low birth weight babies.  Since antepartum depression and antidepressants can cause premature births, more research is URGENTLY needed for the early detection and treatment of prenatal depression, as well as to find ways to treat prenatal depression without harming the developing baby.