Free resource for pregnant and new parents! Join us for our first meet-up to help you grow your village.
I am excited to announce that Shubha Swamy, LPC, and I will be hosting our Hey Baby! couples workshop for new parents again on September 29th, 2018. Couples will spend the day learning real techniques to help keep their relationship strong as they add a new baby to the family.
By the end of the day, couples will have learned communication skills that will help them navigate difficult conversations, how to preserve intimacy, ways to strengthen their friendship, techniques to help bond with their baby, and the signs of postpartum depression / anxiety and where to get help.
We hope you will join us for an entertaining day that will benefit your relationship for a long time to come.
Becoming parents is an incredibly wonderful, but also a very challenging time for a couple. Even the strongest relationship can feel strained during the transition to parenthood. You are both tasked with the job of caring for a tiny human who does not come with an instruction manual. Add on lack of sleep and additional household responsibilities; its no wonder that couples report a significant decline in relationship satisfaction.
Sadly, 2 out of 3 couples report a drastic decrease in their relationship happiness after a child is born.
But it doesn't have to be this way! I am excited to introduce Hey Baby!, a workshop for couples navigating new parenthood. Hey Baby! will teach you and your partner how to strengthen your friendship and help you develop ways to stay connected with each other as you figure out the new world of parenting together. Hey Baby! will also help you learn about the emotional needs of your child and develop effective co-parenting strategies with your partner.
Hey Baby! is a full day workshop that is based on the research-based Bringing Baby Home program from the Gottman Institute.
April 7th -- Decatur, GA
June 16th -- North Fulton/East Cobb County, GA
September 29th -- Atlanta, GA
All workshops are from 9am to 6pm and are $250 per couple
More about The Bringing Baby Home program:
After decades of research, Dr. Gottman and colleagues found the best predictor of marital adjustment after baby arrives is the quality of friendship in the marriage. Bringing Baby Home combines scientific research, education, interactive exercises and skill building to improve the quality of life for babies and children by strengthening the family. Parents build relationship satisfaction and create healthy social, emotional and intellectual development for their children. Research tells us that taking a Bringing Baby Home class makes a difference.
Registration is currently open for Hey Baby! Register before march 17th and receive a 10% discount. Click here to register.
Hey Baby! Workshop Leaders
So, as a therapist who works with postpartum moms, I cringe a little when I hear a comment like "That mom just has a case of the blues." Okay, if I'm being completely honest, I do a whole lot more than cringe....I get pretty mad! And here is why...
The baby blues and postpartum depression are two completely different things!
When you tell a mom who is suffering with postpartum depression that she has "the blues" it minimizes her experience. It can also prevent her from reaching out and getting the help she desperately needs. When you tell a mom "It's only the blues", she hears "suck it up, all moms go through this." And she thinks, "What's wrong with me that I can't handle this?"
Okay, I will get off my soap box now. Promise.
So what, then, are the baby blues?
The baby blues are very real and impact 80% of new moms. Typically a new mom will start to experience symptoms a week or so after delivery. Symptoms include: tearfulness, irritability, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed. A new mom may feel this way for 2-3 weeks and then the symptoms self-resolve, they go away on their own.
So, how is that different than postpartum depression?
Another good question!
Postpartum depression affects 1 in 7 new moms. It is the most common complication of childbirth! Symptoms most often start 2-3 weeks following delivery, and peak around month 2 or 3. However, symptoms of postpartum depression can start anytime within the first year after having a baby. Common symptoms include feeling sad, crying, loss of appetite, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, anger or irritability.
The good news? With help these conditions are very treatable. The quicker the symptoms are addressed, the quicker the new mom will feel better. If someone you know is suffering through postpartum depression, encourage them to talk to their doctor or see a therapist who has specialized training in maternal mental health. There are also local support groups that a mom can attend. A great resource to find help in your area is Postpartum Support International.
If you know a new mom that is struggling, tell her that she does not need to suffer in silence! She is not alone, and with help she will get better!
Read other posts about this topic here.
It's official, we are smack dab in the middle of holiday season. Often this time of year is so busy with fun (and not so fun) activities and obligations, that we end up feeling like we need a vacation by the end of it! Even though the holidays can be full of joy and wonder, they can also be a time full of stress and high expectations. Snippy comments or full blown arguments with your partner can often be the result of this stress.
But wait! Don't fret!
Here are 4 ways to stay connected with your partner during the holidays. (Pssst... these are ways couples can stay connected year round!)
1) Set Realistic Expectations
Before you are knee deep in holiday cheer, discuss with each other what your hopes and expectations for the holidays are. What are the things that are most important to each of you? What are the things that you are willing to (and not willing to) compromise? Perhaps you will be spending the holidays at the in-laws, but you feel it's important that you, your partner, and your children spend some time together. Make a game plan ahead of time for how the things that are important to each of you can happen.
2) Make Couple Time a Priority
Intentionally set aside time during the holidays to connect as a couple. Perhaps you can make a new tradition with your partner such as exchanging gifts just the two of you, or going on a special date. Quality time together can be as easy as sharing a glass of wine by the fire or going for a walk while the grandparents watch the kids. The time you spend together doesn't have to be fancy, but it does need to be a priority. If time together isn't intentionally planned, it can be the first thing to go when we get busy.
3) Create a Culture of Appreciation
Sometimes we take our partners for granted and do not recognize all the little (or big) things they do to help our family. And sometimes we feel taken for granted ourselves. Couples can create a culture of appreciation in their relationship by noticing the things that their partner does and by saying "thank you." Try to catch each other doing something good, and acknowledge it when you see it. When you pay extra attention to the helpful things they do, you might be surprised how many you can find! During a time where everyone is busy, a simple "thank you" can go a long way.
4) Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care!!
This last one may sound counterintuitive, but it's true! In order to not let the holiday stress come between you and your sweetie, you need to take care of you. With holiday parties, family obligations, gift buying, etc., etc., etc. It can be easy to forget about the self-care. Try to add in some solo or family activities that include exercise and schedule down time to recharge your battery. Simply taking a few minutes to practice some deep breathing can be a great stress reducer.
Remember this time of year isn't about the gifts, the food, the parties... it's about spending time with the ones we love. Now go and create some memories together! Wishing you all a happy holiday season!
Want more? Check out a few more posts about improving your relationship here.
I'm continuing with the theme this week of how to improve your relationship with your partner.
This video explains the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which are communication patterns that will lead to the end of your relationship. And more importantly, it talks about the antidotes if these communication patterns have found a way into your relationship.
Worth a quick watch...check it out!
What is it that makes a relationship stand the test of time? I wish I had an easy answer for that one! But I can share that strong relationships have one thing in common, and that is trust. According to relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, trust is one of the most important things to make love last.
Often the conflicts that couples have are related to questions of trust. Can I trust that you will be here for me? Will you will put our relationship first? Can I trust that you will be faithful to me? Can I trust that you will take care of our kids? Will you take my side? Can I trust you to comfort me when I've had a bad day? Will you be emotionally available? Can I trust you to love me for who I am?
So how do you build and nurture trust? According to Gottman, trust is built in the small every day moments. He calls them sliding door moments, based on the movie Sliding Doors. In these moments you are paying attention to your partner and their emotional needs, and you make the choice to connect with your partner. Sliding door moments happen quick and they happen all the time. You have a choice how to respond.
An example of a sliding door moment that I like to share with my clients in therapy, is one that Dr. Gottman talks about from his own relationship. One night he was tired and wanted to get into bed to read a book. But as he passed by the bathroom, he noticed that his wife looked sad. In that moment, she didn't see him so he had a choice. Does he go into the bathroom and ask her what's wrong? Or does he get in bed and read the book he was excited to get back to? She would never know the difference. Spoiler alert-- he went into the bathroom. By responding in that way, he turned towards his wife and built trust.
In the video below, Dr. Gottman talks more about sliding door moments.
In couples therapy, a lot of the work we do is learning how to strengthen trust and intimacy. We focus on how the couple can recognize those sliding door moments and how to respond in a way that that brings them closer to one another.
Postpartum depression can effect 1 out of 7 new moms. If you recently had a baby and you are feeling anxious, sad, or irritable, or perhaps you are crying a lot, you could be suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety.
The good news? There is help out there. I wanted to share with you today a study that is having good results treating women with postpartum depression. The Hummingbird Study is a research study evaluating an investigational medication in women with moderate to severe postpartum depression.
You may qualify for the study if you meet the following eligibility requirements:
- You are between 18 to 45 years old
- You gave birth within the last 6 months
- You frequently feel extremely sad, anxious or overwhelmed and these symptoms are associated with postpartum depression
If you qualify, and decide you want to participate in the study, you will receive 24-hour medical care and support for your postpartum depression during the 3-day, in-patient period. All study-related medical care and medication provided at no cost.
If you would like more information, or to see if you qualify for the study, please visit www.thehummingbirdstudy.com or call (844) 901-0101.
This may not sound like a typical blog post from me. Maybe that's a good thing.
I wanted to share with you an experience I had this afternoon. I was feeling pretty carefree, it's a beautiful hot summer day, and I had the music pumped up in the car as I drove to an appointment. As I was singing at the top of my lungs (probably looking totally ridiculous... and not caring), and suddenly I got the chills. Why? Because the song playing totally spoke to living in the present moment. The song? Van Halen- Right Now.
Right now, c'mon,it's everything.
Right now, catch a magic moment.
Do it right here and now...It means everything.
Some times when I talk about mindfulness it's hard to capture the true meaning of it without sounding all "therapy like." But mindfulness is so much more. Its about being here, RIGHT NOW. Not reliving the past, not thinking ahead to the future. So often we are not truly present, not experiencing what is actually going on. Maybe we are thinking what we are going to make for dinner, or what we could have said differently in a meeting. All the while, missing what is going on right in front of us.
My message today is to stop! Take a look around you. What is happening right here, right now. Play the song...Play it LOUD. Don't let this moment slip away.
There is a great opportunity this month to help bring awareness to maternal mental health and support new moms. Climb Out of the Darkness is the worlds largest event bringing awareness to maternal mental health including postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety & OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis, bipolar/peripartum onset, and pregnancy depression and anxiety.
Climb Out of the Darkness is being held close to the longest day of the year, or the summer solstice, to shine light on issues that impact maternal mental health. Around the world moms and their supporters will join organized hikes and walks to represent their symbolic rise out of the darkness of maternal mental illness and into the light of hope and recovery. This years climb will take place on June 24th.
To show your support, you can participate in an organized climb or you can make a donation. This year your donations will support Postpartum Support International. There are climbs happening all over the world. If you are in Georgia, we have two climbs happening here, one in Stone Mountain and one in Cumming. All funds raised for these two climbs directly benefit the Georgia Chapter of Postpartum Support International.
To learn more visit:
Stone Mountain Climb, organized by Nikki Reeves: http://www.crowdrise.com/maternalmentalhealthsupport
North Georgia Climb, organized by Amy Corn: http://www.crowdrise.com/amycorn2017
For more information or to find a climb near you: https://www.crowdrise.com/COTD2017
Here is the truth... postpartum depression is not always completely preventable. However, there are steps that you can take to help minimize your risk. I was recently interviewed by Romper.com and provided several tips on how to be proactive and implement some self-care strategies that can make those first few weeks of being a new parent a little more manageable.
Three areas to focus on to help minimize your risk of postpartum depression and anxiety are support, resources, and sleep.
I like to remind moms that it takes a village, and you need to identify who is in your village.
You don't have to, and you shouldn't, do this alone! What supports can you put into place before your baby is born? For example, you can set up a Meal train calendar to help organize who will bring food when you are taking care of your new baby.
And don't forget about sleep! Can someone else, a partner or postpartum doula/night nurse, take the first baby feeding of the night so that mom can get a solid block of uninterrupted sleep?
For more tips, and to read the article in its entirety, please visit romper.com.
Hopefully, by being proactive you can reduce your risk of PPD and make life feel a tiny bit more manageable when your baby arrives. But if you do experience depression and/or anxiety, don't be afraid to ask for help. You will be an amazing mom... just remember you do not have to do it on your own!
As I mentioned yesterday, this week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. For the remainder of the week I will be posting articles and resources to help bring awareness to the struggles with depression and anxiety that affect 1 in 7 new moms.
Intrusive thoughts are exactly what they sound like- they are unwanted and often distressing thoughts that pop into your head and can be hard to get rid of. For new moms these thoughts are especially anxiety provoking because they often are about harm coming to your baby. Sometimes graphic images come with the thoughts, and they can be hard to shake. These thoughts can bring shame and embarrassment. Often moms do not want to tell anyone that they are having these thoughts, because they think there must be something terribly wrong with them if they are having these awful thoughts about their baby.
These intrusive thoughts are common, especially in women that are experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression. They do not mean that something is wrong with you, or that you are a bad mom.
These thoughts are not you! They do not make you a bad mom. They do not mean that you will harm your baby. They are a product of your brain, your very busy brain. Please do not feel like you must keep these thoughts to yourself. Talk to your partner, a family member, another mom, or even a counselor or therapist if you are struggling. You are not alone!
In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Terra LaRock bravely talks about her experience with intrusive thoughts:
I noticed that every so often I would get these flashes of the worst case scenario happening to my baby. From falling down the stairs, to hitting her head accidentally on the door as I walked down the hallway, to her suffocating in her sleep, it was as if my mind was hijacked by every terrible tragedy I had read about or seen in my lifetime.
The thoughts became so bad that I became scared to hold my daughter. I was afraid that if held her, the thoughts would be prolonged. Therefore, I thought that if I didn’t see her or hold her for awhile, that they would stop and would no longer be triggered. I knew that this seemed irrational and most of all, physically impossible since I was still breastfeeding and I was of course, her mother.
If this article was helpful to you, or you know someone it might help, please take a moment now to share this post. The more we talk about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, the less stigmatized they will be. Thank you!
I usually don't share a lot about myself on my blog. But today I am putting myself out there, on a topic that is near and dear to me. This week, May 1 - May 7, is maternal mental health awareness week. So, I thought if there was ever a time to share some of my story, this is it. So here goes...
Having, and caring for, a new baby is hard! Having a baby without a strong support system to help is even harder! When we had our first son, my husband and I lived far away from any family and friends. To say our “village” was small would be an understatement. Our village was practically nonexistent! Luckily, we had family members visit for the first month or so. But once the dust settled and everyone went home I found myself feeling alone and very isolated. If I am completely honest, there were many days when I felt like I was being pulled down into that deep, dark hole of postpartum depression.
But looking back on my experience after I had my first son, I realized that I was not alone. Yes, I had a wonderful husband, but this post isn’t about him. This post is about a surprising relationship that helped me more than anything else. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time how this relationship saved me. Oddly enough, or perhaps not oddly at all, this post is about my dog, Cali.
Oh boy, our Cali had a lot of energy! She needed time to run around and be active. If she didn’t get a walk every single day, she would be bouncing off the walls come the evening. (sounds like a kid I know).
Some of the time, her daily walks would feel overwhelming. You know, those days when the thought of leaving the house felt like just too much. But she needed it, so I went. The days when walking her sounded like torture, it was hot and sticky, or the baby had barely slept the night before. But she needed it, so I went. The days when you just want to hook yourself up to an IV of coffee or hide in the pantry. But she needed her walk, so I went. That’s what I did. Every day.
Sometimes we walked for 30 minutes. Sometimes our walks lasted for hours. More times than not, they were the best part of my day.
There were days when I was exhausted and had no motivation to do anything, she would come and put her head onto lap, look up at me with those dark eyes, wag her whip-like tail, and I couldn’t resist. I would pack up the stroller, grab her leash, and head for the door. By the end of the walk, she was usually tired and would curl up on her doggy bed. And me, I would almost always feel better. Our walks together gave me the strength, energy, and calm mind that helped me to tackle another exhausting day.
Looking back, I realize that as a new mom I took care of everyone else before myself. I told myself that she needed a walk, so I went. But really, by taking care of my Cali-girl, I got what I needed too. I think those walks saved me in those early months. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her.
I've learned that help can come from surprising places. Also, getting outside at least once a day, even if it is just for 15 minutes can make a world of difference. So if you're a new mom, make a reoccurring walking date with a friend or another mom or even your dog.
If this article was helpful to you, or you know someone it might help, please take a moment now to share this post. The more we talk about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, the less stigmatized they will be. Thank you!
The new mom's group I facilitate at Intown Midwifery, will not be meeting in May. However, the Alpharetta group will still meet on May 5th. We will resume the intown group in June. I hope to see some of you new moms there on Friday June 9th, at 10am!!
In collaboration with NorthStar Support, I will be leading our monthly support group for new and expecting moms THIS FRIDAY, April 14th at Intown Midwifery. We will be meeting from 10-11:30am. Lap babies are always welcome! I hope to see you there!
What makes a person happy? Is it money? Is it friends and family? Is it a successful career?
The study of happiness and what makes people happy has been increasingly popular topic since the 1990's when the positive psychology movement started. Book after book has been written about how to find happiness in your life. A few years ago I watched the documentary 'Happy' and several things stuck with me. So, I decided to rewatch it this weekend and share what I learned.
Scientists have studied people from around the world to figure out what makes a person happy. Here is what they found:
50% of our happiness is determined by our genes. This is called our genetic set point. Basically, when bad things happen you will be less happy for a while, and when good things happen you will be more happy for a while, but then you will return to your genetic set point.
10% of our happiness is determined by the circumstances we were born into, and are out of our control.
The remaining 40% of what makes us happy is our intentional behavior, these are the things that we do on a regular basis that can make us happier.
Here are the things in our control that will make us happier:
FLOW. Flow is an activity (usually physical) where your mind is so completely focused on the present moment that you loose yourself and you tend to forget your problems. Athletes call this being in 'the zone.' Some people feel flow when exercising, some when performing, some when working. The more flow in your life, the more happiness in your life.
- Close family or friends. All of the happiest people interviewed had a strong community of friends and/or family. In Denmark, one of the happiest counties in the world, they have communal living. Here, twenty to thirty people live in a small community and they all share responsibilities, such as cooking and cleaning. They all eat together and socialize with each other. The community is made up of all ages from children to elderly, and they all look out for each other.
- Religion or Spirituality. When people feel connected to something greater than themselves, they tend to be happier. However, when religion sets people up against each other, and teaches that one is greater than the other, then the effect is opposite and people are less happy.
- Compassion and acts of kindness towards others are the most effective ways to increase your happiness set point.
One thing that didn't have an effect on happiness was money. As long as you have enough money to meet your basic needs, then money really won't buy happiness. When you look at people making $5,000 compared to people making $50,000 there was a drastic difference in their happiness. But when you compare people making $50,000 to people making $500,000 the difference was minimal.
So get out there, spend time with friends and family, create a community, find your flow, and be kind to one another! Check out the documentary if you would like to learn more.
With 1 in 7 new moms experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, it's important for all of us to start talking more about it.
While PPD/PPA can affect anyone, regardless of ethnicity, social class, or economic status, there are several factors that puts a woman at higher risk for developing PPD/PPA.
Asking these 8 simple questions can help you figure out if you are at an increased risk:
1) Is it difficult for you to ask for help
2) Were you depressed or anxious after your last baby or during your pregnancy?
3) Have you been depressed or anxious in the past?
4) Was your mother, sister, and/or aunt depressed after their babies were born?
5) Is your family far away and do you have few friends nearby?
6) Is it sometimes hard for you to slow down?
7) Have you had trouble with hormones and moods, especially before your period?
8) Do you not have the money, food, and/or housing you need?
If you answered 'Yes' to 3 or more of these questions, you are at higher risk for developing postpartum depression or anxiety. The good news is there is help if you are struggling. You are not alone, and you do not have to suffer alone!! Talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you find that you are not able to get the support you need from your family and friends, join a support group or contact a therapist who specializes in maternal mental health.
When we think of postpartum depression and anxiety, we most often think of women. However, men can experience postpartum anxiety or depression as well. In fact, 1 in 10 new fathers get postpartum depression or anxiety. And if the mother is experiencing her own anxiety and depression, this rate goes up to 50%.
Check out this video from Postpartum International to learn more.
Here’s the situation… You’re exhausted. You get into your comfy PJ’s, get ready for bed, and finally crawl in under the covers. But you don’t sleep… Instead your mind decides to replay the events of the day in your head. What went well? What didn’t? What did you forget to do? Did you return that phone call? “Ok, stop,” you tell yourself, “I must get to sleep!” But do you? No! Because now your mind starts thinking about what you need to do tomorrow. What do you need to do before that meeting? You can’t forget to schedule that doctor’s appointment. Maybe you even pick-up that phone that is sitting on your nightstand and “quickly” check what’s on your social media feeds.
If so, here are a few tips that will encourage a visit from the Sandman:
1) Practice mindfulness to help relax your body and quiet that overactive mind. A good way to start a mindfulness practice is to simply focus on your breath. Start by telling yourself “I’m breathing in” as you take a deep breath, and “I’m breathing out” as you exhale. If you catch yourself thinking about something else, thank your mind for that thought and then let it go. If you have trouble doing this on your own, and find yourself getting distracted, there are several apps that can help. One of my favorites is Calm. There are a lot of them out there, look and find one that works for you.
2) Create a consistent sleep routine. Go to bed and get up the same time each day. Your body will get use to the routine. Need help with that? Set a reminder on your phone to let you know that it is time to start getting ready for bed each night.
3) Turn off the screens! Looking at your phone, watching TV, or fiddling with other gadgets are not helpful prior to sleep. Can you make your bedroom a technology-free zone? At minimum, remove that phone or remote from your nightstand.
4) Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and not too hot or cold.
5) Make sure you are getting some exercise each day.
Hopefully, with these five quick tips you will be sleeping easier in no time!
Since the birth of my two children, I have become passionate about working with women who are struggling with prenatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and their partners. Depression and anxiety are the most common complications of childbirth, affecting 1 in 7 women. However, many women suffer in silence and do not talk about what they are experiencing. I think this silence is due to several myths about what postpartum depression truly is and is not.
Myth #1: When you have postpartum depression you don't feel connected to your baby.
I believed this to be true. And sometimes it is. A parent who is suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression can experience a lack of connection to their baby. But often this is not the case. Parents can feel connected to their baby and still suffer. In fact, some parents feel so connected with their child that they feel that they are the only ones able to care for them. They have a hard time accepting help from family, or their partner, and can feel overwhelmed.
Myth #2: People with postpartum depression are the ones you hear about in the news that hurt themselves or/and their babies.
Stories in the media about women hurting their children, or themselves, are sometimes what come to mind when people think of postpartum depression. However, these stories are usually related to postpartum psychosis, not postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis is rare and usually occurs within the first two weeks postpartum. Postpartum psychosis is described as a break with reality. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, can look like irritability, appetite or sleep disturbance, crying or sadness, or feelings of guilt and hopelessness.
Myth #3: If I tell anyone about the disturbing thoughts I have about my baby, they will judge me and surely take my baby away.
Some women can have intrusive and disturbing thoughts about their child. Common themes are the baby getting hurt. Images and thoughts might include the parent hurting or even sexually abusing the baby. These thoughts are usually highly distressing to a parent! Research has shown that these thoughts and images are products of anxiety, they are not delusional and have a very low probability of being acted on. But these thoughts are so disturbing that parents will keep them to themselves and not tell a soul. They suffer in silence for fear of being judged or being labeled an unfit parent. There is help. You do not need to suffer in silence!
There is help out there
Postpartum depression and anxiety can start any time within the first year of parenthood. If you have been struggling, and think you may be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, there is help out there! Postpartum depression and anxiety are treatable.
The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a 10-question self-administered assessment tool that helps to identify women that are suffering from postpartum depression. You can download and print the questionnaire here, or you can complete it online at the Beyond the Blues website.
You are not alone, and with help you will feel better.