All posts by Thrive Health

The Opposite of the Baby Blues: Postpartum Hypomania

by Maya Hammer, M.A., Counselling Psychology | www.mayahammer.ca

We all know about the “baby blues”, a common experience of emotional ups and downs in the first week or two postpartum. Many of us, however, have never heard of the “baby pinks,” or The Highs, a feeling of intense happiness or euphoria following birth.


Symptoms
of postpartum hypomania include:
-racing thoughts
-fast talking
-being very active
-decreased ability to concentrate
-impulsivity, e.g., shopping
-decreased need for sleep
-irritability

These symptoms can be triggered by childbirth and usually subside after 6-8 weeks postpartum. In some cases, however, postpartum hypomania is an early indicator for bipolar disorder, depression, or psychosis. Therefore, it is very important to seek treatment if you or a loved one you know is experiencing.

Causes
Pregnancy and childbirth can trigger mental imbalance because of physiological changes such as stress, dysregulated cortisol, increased inflammation, decreased serotonin, and hormonal fluctuations. In addition, psychosocial factors can impact mental well-being including disrupted sleep, the demands of caring for a baby, lack of support, life stress, marital difficulty, or trauma. Genetics plays a part too: a personal or family history of mental illness, in particular bipolar disorder, predisposes a woman to prenatal and postpartum mental illness.

Treatment
It is important to seek treatment immediately if you notice unusual behaviour in your partner or loved one. Treatment can involve:

1)      mood stabilizer medication

2)      therapy to stabilize mood and regulate daily schedule

3)      support and education for partners and families


For further reading, check out these resources:

A blog post on postpartum hypomania and mania

mom’s experience of hypomania induced by anti-depressant medication

study on the prevalence of postpartum hypomania

And another study demonstrating that hypomanic symptoms can be used to correctly diagnose postpartum bipolar disorder.

As well, check out an article in Today’s Parent, and Maya’s appearance on CTV Canada AM talking about the baby pinks.

 

 

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I’m Afraid to Visit a Chiropractor!

If visions of vicious neck twisting and spine cracking have you wary of chiropractors, you wouldn’t be the first to admit it. Misunderstood notions of chiropractic care can spawn fears and suspicions that delay patients from seeking the treatments they need. Typically it only takes a consultation and a few adjustments to put these fears to rest, and for patients to see how beneficial and transformative chiropractic can truly be.

But of course, in order to get there, you need to overcome the fears preventing you from making that first appointment! So in the interest of myth-busting and alleviating worries associated with chiropractic, here are some of the common concerns that cause potential patients to hesitate.

Fear: It’s going to hurt. This is perhaps the most common fear that discourages people from exploring chiropractic care as a viable treatment option. It’s natural to feel nervous about a physical treatment that you aren’t familiar with. However, you shouldn’t let your fear of discomfort (both during and between treatments) keep you from booking a consultation. This initial assessment will provide a no-pressure environment where your practitioner can get to know you, and you can ask any questions you might have about treatment. Also remember that sessions vary from patient to patient. Your practitioner will use a treatment and touch that is safe, comfortable and appropriate for your age and condition. Treatments are gentle and often therapeutic. Additionally, many patients feel an immediate sense of relief after adjustments. So if you’ve already been experiencing pain, chiropractic’s aim is to alleviate it, not cause you more grief!

Fear: I’m going to feel uncomfortable or awkward. As long as you have a good chiropractor, this should be one of the most unfounded misconceptions of all! A perfect balance between warmth, friendliness and professionalism should be every practitioner’s goal. Remember that your chiropractor wants to help make you more comfortable, and to that end, should be approachable and caring. If at any point during your treatments you feel uncomfortable, speak up! There’s lots your chiropractor can do –such as explain the treatment methods being used, reposition you, or clarify why you might temporarily be feeling some discomfort.

Fear: It’s going to cost a fortune. Chiropractic is covered under many health plans, so check yours to determine what type of coverage you might have. It’s also important to remember that chiropractic care is an investment that could save you recovery time, illness, money, and other preventable damage to your health in the future. You may have heard the analogy that chiropractic is like a regular car tune-up. You have to pay a service fee for it, but it could prevent your car from completely breaking down somewhere along the line. Chiropractic is a means of optimizing your central nervous system, which plays a critical role in your overall health and immune system functioning. A healthy system and proper alignment can help save your health (and funds) in the future.

The best way to put your mind at ease is from actually gaining some hands-on experience with a chiropractor- literally! Book a consultation, bring your questions and concerns, and discover what options are available to you to achieve your health goals!

 

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3 Needs Women May Overlook When Pregnant

When you find out you’re pregnant, you begin a mental checklist immediately. The list of things you could benefit from purchasing, eating and reading is endless. In spite of all of the advice and “to-do’s” available, there are a few smart investments and purchases that may be easier to overlook.

1. Orthotics: many pregnant women experience some common foot problems that may increase in severity over the course of their pregnancy. These include over-pronation, swelling and pain in the arch and heel. Weight gain puts a great deal of added stress on feet and orthotics are a smart investment to increase your comfort and health. As this awesome article “Pregnancy and Your Feet” from Mount Joy reminds us, hormonal surges cause ligaments in the feet to relax, which can flatten arches. New shifts in how you bear weight can also result in over-pronation, a condition we’ve mentioned before with respect to orthotics. This can make walking painful, and increase strain on the legs and lower back. Since many of these discomforts are already a concern for pregnant women, minimizing additional stress from foot problems is an important move for avoiding unnecessary and potentially serious discomfort and injury.

2. Pre-natal massage: While some pregnant women might see this as a luxury, having a pre-natal massage can be a highly effective treatment to lessen symptoms of pregnancy and its toll on your body. Massage reduces strain on muscles, nerve pain and swelling, while improving circulation, which is particularly important during pregnancy due to the elevated risk of blood clots.

3. A therapeutic outlet: whether it’s a psychotherapist, a support group, or a pre-natal yoga class, it’s important to have a space to relax and work through some of the more emotionally complicated aspects of pregnancy. The fact that you are undergoing a major (and exciting!) life change, in addition to onslaughts of hormones can produce any mixture of feelings including tension, stress, guilt, and anxiety. The proper form of therapy can help to foster a healthy and calm state of being, which will better prepare any expectant mom for labour, delivery and motherhood.

So don’t just be good to yourself during your pregnancy- be great! Tackle unaddressed discomforts- whether physical or emotional- with these natural, body-friendly treatments.

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My Baby Doesn’t Want to Wean

Deciding when it’s time to start weaning is certainly a subjective and personal decision. Some of the factors that help you choose when the time is right include:
> your lifestyle
> your child’s needs
> the demands of breastfeeding on your body
> indications that your baby is ready to wean
> the emotional connection you have to breastfeeding

Remember that weaning is a gradual process and one that should be undertaken with confidence and patience. Some mothers find that when it’s time to begin weaning, the resistance from their babies is an early and significant obstacle to the process. Here’s some general advice that you might find helpful if you’re struggling to start this transition.

Your baby may not be ready. If you believe in child-led weaning, then your cues for the right time to stop breastfeeding will come from your baby. Carefully assess the situation as you try to wean. Is your baby simply used to feedings and fussing out of habit? There is an expected transitional phase where you’ll need to introduce your baby to whatever new feeding routine you’re moving towards in the early stages of weaning. Since this will be an adjustment, some confusion, fussing or resistance is normal. If, after an initial attempt, your baby truly doesn’t seem ready to skip a feeding at the breast however, you might consider waiting.

Find new ways of nurturing. Breastfeeding is an emotionally rich experience for mothers, and an opportunity to bond with your child in a unique way. This is an experience that is difficult to let go of. But the special relationship you share with your baby doesn’t have to diminish at all when you stop breastfeeding. During the process of weaning, find new ways to nurture your child, whether it’s by rocking, napping together, singing, soothing or reading.


Timing is important.
Since weaning is an emotional and physical transition that takes some adjusting, avoid beginning the process during other major changes in your family’s life. If you’ve just returned to work, for example, your child may still be getting used to new structures and routines. Adding in weaning may overwhelm both of you, and might be met with more resistance if too much else is changing simultaneously. You will also want to time weaning based on your own health. Your nutritional needs and metabolic rate will be changing, so begin weaning at a time when you’re ready to adjust your habits, exercise and diet accordingly.

Make your own schedule. Figure out a weaning process that works for you. Are there certain feedings that feel more intuitive to cut out? That’s the place to start. Consider the duration, convenience and time of day of each feeding. Check out this insightful and personal blog post from breastfeeding consultant Taya Griffin as an example. She shares her experience with night-weaning. She knew that she could benefit from more sleep, and that eliminating nighttime feedings was a good place to start the weaning process. We appreciate her reminder that her successful experience with night-weaning doesn’t mean that she’s ready to eliminate breastfeeding altogether. Remember, as she does, that starting your own weaning process doesn’t have to put you on a fast track to solely solids. Go at your own pace.

Talk to someone! As with many aspects of mothering and baby care, talking about your feelings, experiences and struggles can be enormously helpful. Talk to another mother, a breastfeeding consultant or keep an eye out for workshops and support groups. We host many! You can also chat with Dr. Heins about how to ensure you meet your growing toddler’s nutritional needs. Whatever path you choose, knowledge, patience and support will make this an exciting transition in your baby’s life.

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What to Expect from a Lactation Consultation

 

If you’re a new mother or a soon-to-be mom, you might already realize that breastfeeding can be an unpredictable journey. Many mothers and newborns face challenges with latching and effective feeding, and while these are perfectly normal, they can require the help of a counselor who has plenty of experience with breastfeeding.

When you’re tired, hormonal and experiencing more physical and emotional changes than you know what to do with, the challenges presented by breastfeeding can feel overwhelming. Sometimes mothers will have a very emotional response to breastfeeding, and the inability to get your baby to latch can feel like a personal failure.

Nothing could be further from the truth -and with the help of the right lactation consultant, you’ll have no problem remembering that.

Why consult on breastfeeding? Shouldn’t it be intuitive?

Breastfeeding feels wonderful and natural in many ways. It’s a time for a new mother to bond with her baby, to experience her femininity and maternal instincts fully, and to connect with her new identity as a mother. However, the most important outcome of breastfeeding is a healthy baby that is being nourished and gaining weight at a normal rate.

Sometimes –often in fact- some extra support is necessary to ensure that you’re optimizing feeding time for your baby. A breastfeeding consultant is not only highly helpful and instructive, but she’s also a major source of comfort if you’ve been finding the experience frustrating or disheartening. Your consultant can help you regroup and strategize effectively, while consulting on any of the following issues:

1. My baby won’t latch: If your baby doesn’t seem interested in feeding, can’t latch effectively, or doesn’t seem to be swallowing much milk, a consultant can help by introducing you to alternative breastfeeding techniques and tools.

2. Ow! Is it supposed to be this painful? While breastfeeding can initially cause some discomfort, one of your breastfeeding goals will be to eliminate pain. Your lactation consultant can offer you different latching techniques and natural remedies to help make breastfeeding more comfortable. She will also carefully analyze and help optimize your baby’s positioning and suckling.

3. I’m worried about my milk production: If you’re worried about low milk production, your consultant can advise you on how to effectively boost your supply with techniques like pumping between feedings and compressing your breasts to fully drain them of milk. Often the problem isn’t supply at all. It may be that you are producing plenty of milk- it just isn’t being effectively delivered to your baby. Getting a second opinion will better enable you to understand your supply, particularly weighed against your baby’s needs and feeding behaviours.

4. My baby isn’t gaining weight: If your baby is having trouble regaining newborn weight or is falling into a low percentile for his or her age group, it’s time to analyze and adjust feeding habits. Your lactation consultant will determine your baby’s suckling and swallowing patterns and help you to make any necessary modifications to your feeding technique and position. Sometimes babies need to be stimulated during breastfeeding, so your consultant might recommend that you alternate sides, re-position, or play with your baby’s hands or feet. This can help to keep the baby alert and suckling actively.

Building a relationship with your lactation consultant
Since your lactation consultant is meant to be a helpful and comforting presence to you, you’ll want to choose someone whose company and guidance you genuinely enjoy. Consulting on breastfeeding is an important postpartum process, and directly connected to your baby’s health and growth. Accordingly, we take breastfeeding seriously and sensitively. We’re thrilled to welcome Maria Lameiro of DoulaNatur Holistic Family Services to our team at Thrive Health as our on-site lactation consultant! Maria is a doula, lactation consultant, childbirth educator, and mother of three. She is passionate about holistic family health and loves to empower others to reach their parenting, birth, breastfeeding and lifestyle goals. She’d love to assist and support you on your breastfeeding journey.

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Out of the Gait: Investing in Orthotics

Do you ever experience pain in your feet, knees, shins or heels? This could be the result of misalignment and uneven weight distribution in your feet. The way that you stand, rest your weight and walk all affect the mechanics of your feet, and in turn can impact your entire body.

Your feet are a complex system of bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons working together to support your body. The arches are under enormous stress and strain every day. If arches lose their ability to flex and return to their normal shape, your feet will not be able to properly absorb the shock of walking. Over time, this added stress can cause break down in the joints of the feet and the rest of the body. Enter: orthotics.

You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from a gait assessment and orthotics. If your weight isn’t evenly distributed when you stand upright, you’re not alone. Many people are inclined toward either pronation or supination:

Image source: http://ow.ly/hkN0t


Over-pronation:
This occurs when the foot rolls inward because of the angle of the heel bone, and often the arch collapses. Weight is borne primarily on the inner sides of the feet.

Supination: This is opposite to pronation, and refers to when the foot rolls outward, lifting the heel from the inside of the foot, and re-distributing weight so that the forefoot and big toe lift slightly off the ground.

Orthotics are custom-shaped inserts for your shoes that help to correct and compensate for the misaligned movements and position of your feet.  While many people visit a podiatrist for orthotics, a chiropractic assessment is worth considering instead. A chiropractor can help to treat your entire body, and identify which lower body pain is in fact related to foot movement and weight-bearing. Chiropractors will use a number of techniques to better understand the mechanical functioning of your feet, but will also help you address and understand the root causes for other sites of pain.

These diagnostic assessments are particularly important for pregnant women. During pregnancy, the stress on your feet and arches increases as you grow and gain weight over a relatively short period of time. During the nine months that you’ll carry your baby, your feet may change shape, and you might notice pain in your knees and ankles. Custom orthotics can help to prevent post-pregnancy damage to your feet and to improve comfort.

For more information and diagrams about orthotics and foot biomechanics, we like this blog’s comprehensive and highly visual overview. When you’re ready for a better assessment of your own stance, foot alignment and walking biomechanics, give Dr. Wise a visit!

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Natural Remedies for your Sick Infant

If your toddler or baby has caught a bug, you’re probably experiencing a horrible helpless feeling. It’s upsetting seeing your little one succumb to illness of any kind, and it can also be stressful determining how to administer any sort of treatment that is completely natural and non-invasive. Further, you don’t just want to soothe your baby; you want to treat the illness. Fortunately there are a number of tricks and treatments that have proven effective at not only helping your child feel better, but also strengthening immunity to avoid future illnesses.

Here are some of the best natural medicines for treating your baby’s symptoms.

Steam: Warm, moist air can help to treat coughing, so consider putting a humidifier in your baby’s nursery. This will also soothe your baby’s throat and nose if they are dry and irritated.

Bath: A warm bath is an effective and gentle way to clear your baby’s chest and sinuses of congestion. Consider adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil into the tub, or rubbing the oil gently onto your baby’s back.

Postural drainage: If your baby has a runny nose, it’s a good idea to drain it. This will quickly help clear some of the mucous and make breathing easier. You can use a natural saline rinse, or try postural drainage. Hold your baby on your lap face up, with your hand held firmly under the neck. Angle your baby’s head down so that it is slightly lower than the chest. Tap your fingers firmly in the middle of the chest; this will gently loosen the mucous lining your baby’s lungs.

Preventative Measures

There are also a number of steps you can take to improve your child’s immunity and overall health, to prevent future illness. These include:

> Breastfeeding for as long as possible. Breast milk contains important nutrients and antibodies to keep your baby healthy.

> Washing your toddler’s hands for him or her. When children are too young to do it properly, wash their hands for them with plenty of soap and warm water.

> Strictly avoiding contact with anyone who is unwell- this includes you. If a family member is sick, keep them away from the baby not just until they feel better, but until they are completely well.

> Introducing solid foods that are rich in nutrition. Make sure that your baby gets the requisite amounts iron, vitamin C and other nutrients to promote health. To read more about introducing your baby to solids, read our blog post on the subject here.

If you are concerned about your baby’s health, or observing symptoms that make you anxious or confused, don’t hesitate to seek peace of mind by speaking with a health practitioner. It’s time to go to the doctor if:

> Your baby has a fever, especially under 3 months of age.
> Your baby is coughing up mucous that isn’t clear or white.
> Your baby is vomiting consistently.
> You notice a rash anywhere on the body or face accompanying your baby’s illness.
> Your baby or toddler is showing signs of pain.

Lastly, always make sure that you and your baby are always clothed appropriately for the wind, snow, rain, or whatever else Mother Nature is throwing our way. For more on this topic, check out our post “Dressing an Infant for Winter Weather.”

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Dressing an Infant for Winter Weather

We know that babies often can’t communicate their needs clearly, and this makes it difficult to assess a new situation or environment. If it’s your baby’s first winter, you might be having a worrisome time deciding how to dress your infant for the cold, wet, windy (and sometimes unpredictable) weather we’ve been having.

Many parents’ intuitive move is to bundle, bundle, bundle. This is understandable, since babies are temperature-sensitive and their immune systems are still developing. They also don’t have much hair, making their heads highly exposed to the elements. We must remember however, that overheating is a real risk for young, sensitive babies, whether it’s in the car seat, stroller or crib.

Keeping Warm the Right Way

You’re right to keep your baby warm and dry, and to take special care to protect infant hands, feet, faces and heads. Make sure that your baby’s ears are covered to avoid the risk of an ear infection. Always cover hands and feet properly, but don’t necessarily use these as an indication of your baby’s temperature. Babies’ have different circulatory systems than adults, so testing their fingers or toes to the touch isn’t always an accurate way to tell if your child is feeling chilly.

While you should take your baby’s warmth seriously, you should also be mindful of overheating. Watch for signs that your baby or toddler is uncomfortable. He or she might tug at blankets and clothing, squirm and display reddened skin. Layering is a smart way to prepare for uncertain temperatures. This way, if you notice your baby overheating, you can easily remove a blanket or sweater. This is especially prudent if you’re on the go, and transitioning your baby between indoor and outdoor temperatures.

Be careful when swaddling as well. In the car, this can trap heat and raise your baby’s internal temperature. If you notice your baby fussing in the car and showing a flushed face, check that you haven’t overdressed or over wrapped. Remember that you can always add layers before taking your child out of the car.

Lastly, in wet, wintery weather it’s important to not only dress for warmth, but to keep your baby dry. Choose water-resistant fabrics when buying snowsuits, coats, mitts, and stroller covers. Remove damp clothes immediately when you come into the house –this means both you and baby. One of the most important factors for ensuring your baby is well taken care of is keeping YOU, the caregiver, healthy too! So always take a moment before you walk out the door to ensure that you’ve protected your hands and ears, and are dressed suitably.

Wishing you and your little ones health through the rest of winter!

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Dads Get the Blues Too

This post is brought to you by Maya Hammer. Maya Hammer is a psychotherapist in private practice at Thrive Natural Family Health and the Health Psychology Clinic. Don’t miss Maya’s recent interview about postpartum hypomania, or “the baby pinks,” on CTV Canada AM

Dads Get the Blues Too
by Maya Hammer

It is common for women to suffer from depression and anxiety following the birth of a baby. About 10 to 20% of women are diagnosed with postpartum depression. What is less common, however, is our understanding of postpartum depression in men. Recent research has found that 10 to 25 % of new fathers may suffer from depression. Dads or secondary caregivers experience stress related to feeling rejected after the arrival of the child, relationship or marital dysfunction, burden of financial responsibility, grieving pre-baby freedom and lifestyle, or feeling overwhelmed by partner’s postpartum depression.

Paternal postnatal depression (PPND) is often overlooked because, generally speaking, men don’t express suffering the same way women do. For example, men may not acknowledge feeling sad, guilty, and hopeless. Here are some symptoms to look for in men:

  • Increased anger and conflict, violent behaviour
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Lower threshold for stress
  • Risk-taking and impulsivity
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, pain, digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in work and hobbies

If these symptoms are familiar to you or a loved one you can get help through therapy and naturopathic or psychiatric medication. For more information, check out postpartummen, a website for men suffering from PPND and in the book Postpartum Depression for Dummies, by Dr. Shoshan Bennett that has a section on depression in fathers.

If you are a dad and your partner/wife is experiencing postpartum depression, you can find helpful information at postpartumdads and The Postpartum Husband by Karen Kleiman.

Another great resource is Parenting From the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell. This book helps to examine how past issues, including trauma or how you were raised as a child, impact your ability to parent.

 

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Mending the Body with Moxa

There are a lot of funky words that Western communities have had to acquaint themselves with when it comes to alternative medicine and health: yoga, reiki, pilates, Ayurveda, feng shui. Here’s a word you might not be quite so familiar with: moxa. Associated with acupuncture, the buzz word is short for Moxibustion, a traditional Chinese practice that targets a range of ailments including digestive disorders, arthritic pain, and asthma.

The Chinese believed that the application of heat and even burning to targeted parts of the body can increase circulation and encourage restorative properties. In fact, some traditional moxa treatments actually entailed burning and blistering the skin at targeted points on the body. Don’t worry though- today, Western versions of the treatment will typically only involve warming the areas of the body to be treated. Instead of directly applying a flame or lit paper to the skin, modern moxa keeps heat close to the body without contact.

Moxa 101

Here’s how a moxa treatment session will typically go: rolled leaves of plants like mugwort, ginger and mulberry are crushed and either wrapped in paper like a cigarette, or densely packed to resemble a cigar. At Thrive Health, Dr. Heins uses the latter, avoiding potential for burning paper accidents. The “cigarette” is lit at one end and depending on the practitioner, the stick is either held above the body or carefully placed on the skin. Sometimes the moxa stick is rotated or tapped against the skin as well. At Thrive, our moxa treatments never touch the skin, but have the same intended soothing effect. Patients find moxa to be deeply relaxing.

Moxa is believed to soothe and improve a variety of ailments and health conditions. The healing powers of moxa are derived from its perceived ability to provide the body with the necessary balancing “yang” energy. This energy is believed to direct the body’s movement and temperature. Moxa can also be useful in treating a pregnant woman whose baby is presenting breech, and for helping to ease post-birth pelvic and lower back pain.

Heating Needle Moxa

In this alternative form of moxibustion therapy, dried mugwort is rolled and placed on the head of the acupuncture needle. The practitioner then lights the roll which burns slowly in an upright position while the needle stays inserted in the target point. The heat from the burning mugwort travels through the needle and deep into the muscles. This is effective for arthritic muscle and joint pain.

As with many alternative and Eastern therapies that have been adopted by different trained Western health professionals, treatments and procedures will vary slightly from practitioner to practitioner. The patient’s condition is the primary factor in determining which form of moxa will be most effective, so your practitioner will have to assess the best course of action for your individual case.

Moxa can be a wonderful way to soothe and restore a targeted area or muscle by returning an equilibrium in energies to the body. If you want to avoid synthetic, over-the-counter medications for pain relief, moxa is definitely worth a try.

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