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Before I had a baby, postpartum depression (PPD) was something I only heard about on the fringes of motherhood. It would occasionally get brought up among mom friends, but only in the tightest of circles and usually in whispered tones conveying depths of shame I couldn't quite understand.
Every so often, I would see a magazine article citing women who admitted (again, in voices heavy with shame) that they didn't immediately bond with their baby. That they felt soul-crushing sadness after giving birth. That they felt wholly unable to mother properly.
When PPD was mentioned (which wasn't often), it always seemed to follow the same formula: a lack of bonding with the baby, followed by extreme sadness that could last for months―or even years after birth. And long before I ever had a baby, it was clear to me that the majority of women I knew who suffered didn't want anyone to know about it.
Years later, and with two births under my belt, I'm grateful to say that I've seen some things change. Slowly, but with increasing pace, I see more and more parenting communities shaking off the stigma of PPD. I see more and more women breaking the silence and coming forward with stories of their own. I see more and more compassion for the one in every seven moms who experience postpartum depression each year—that's over 500,000 mamas.
And, even more surprisingly, I see a greater understanding of just how varied the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety can be. Because, the fact is, PPD rarely looks the same for any mama―and it can be especially hard to explain feelings that feel unique to you. The experts at Allegheny Health Network get it. They've made it their mission to not only bring more understanding to postpartum mood disorders, but also to help every mom break their silence and remove the stigma of postpartum depression and anxiety.
Here's what some of the women they've worked with want you to know.
When I say "I'm feeling lonely," what I mean is... I feel alone in my suffering.
The trickiest part of PPD? You probably look exactly the same on the outside. In many cases, women continue to power through their daily routines so it can be easy to miss their suffering. "You feel like you're drowning," says Heather, a PPD survivor and an Allegheny Health Network patient. "[But] physically looking at me or at anyone that suffers from something like this, you can't see it. That's what makes it so difficult."
How to help: If you know a new mama, don't assume she's doing okay just because her life isn't obviously going up in flames. Check in. Ask about her health, not just her baby's. And let her know you're a judgment-free place to share.
When I say "I'm not feeling how I thought I would," what I mean is... motherhood isn't bringing me joy.
As moms, we're expected to feel an almost blissful happiness every second of pregnancy and motherhood. But for many women, that happiness seems to evade them―and it often doesn't come the moment they're handed their new baby―leading them to feel like they're already failing as a mother. "I felt so guilty because, here I am, I have this new, adorable baby who doesn't cry and is fantastic," says Ashleigh, a PPD survivor and Allegheny Health Network patient. "I didn't want to seem ungrateful."
How to help: Many mothers with PPD feel guilty for it. One of the best ways to lessen the load? Sharing your own story. It's normal not to immediately connect with your baby (you did just meet them, after all!), and the more stories we hear of strong connections that took a bit of time, the easier it will be for new moms to talk about it.
When I say "I don't feel like myself," what I mean is... I'm getting overwhelmed with anxiety and/or anger.
Sadness is just one of the possible symptoms of PPD. For many women, the condition manifests itself as extreme anxiety, OCD (especially worrying about bad things happening to their babies), and even rage. "Before I personally experienced postpartum depression, I thought, that's only for people that feel like harming themselves or harming their children," Heather says. But the truth is, PPD can look different for everyone―and it can affect anyone. "I never thought that I personally would have postpartum depression because I like to laugh and make jokes about everything," Ashleigh says.
How to help: Postpartum depression and anxiety doesn't discriminate―anyone can be affected. Look for signs that your new mama pal is feeling out of sorts. She might say she lost her temper or that she feels extra frazzled, not necessarily that she's feeling sad, but these can still be symptoms of a greater issue. You can have a more objective view of her feelings even when she can't.
When I say "I don't know how I feel," what I mean is…we still have a lot to learn.
So many symptoms of PPD are similar to general depression and anxiety, it can be scary for a new mom who isn't sure what's wrong with her. "I didn't know how to distinguish from it being...depression or anxiety versus it just being motherhood. I think part of the cure was just discovering that I had postpartum," says Chrissy Teigen, who is Allegheny Health Network's partner. "It was just such a sigh of relief that we can fix this."
How to help: Remember that you don't need to fix her symptoms―you just need to be there when she needs you. Be a listening ear, and remind her that there's no shame in needing help.This article is sponsored by ahnwomen. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.
Whether your family passports are full of stamps or you're planning your first adventure with the kids abroad, it's no secret that traveling with kids builds their heart and memories. One destination that might not be on your bucket list just yet is Norway—specifically, a small village tucked away in a western fjord called Flåm.
Although Flåm only has approximately 350 residents, this village has a ton to offer families. We were fortunate enough to explore everything it had to offer with Universal Entertainment in celebration of the digital release of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. (If your littles are a fan of Toothless or Hiccup, Flåm would be even more magical than it is on its own.)
Here are our favorite family-friendly activities that will make your littles feel like they're a part of The Hidden World.
1. Explore the fjords on Flåmsbana train or by boat
If you need any incentive to visit Norway, the views are sure to do it. But, with so much to see, you'll need to take either boat or train to explore these breathtaking views. The Flåm Railway takes you along a train journey (you can start from the main station at the bottom of Aurlandsfjord or join at the top of the mountains) that kids will adore. If your littles prefer the water, the Future of the Fjords boat is a zero emission vessel that will float you alongside sweeping landscapes, cascading waterfalls and unreal scenery.
2. Visit Viking Village
Take a step back in time—and into the How to Train Your Dragon series—by interacting with authentic Vikings at Njardarheimr. You can select a guided tours or opt to walk around on your own—whichever you choose, encourage your kids to talk with the Vikings about their lifestyle and come with an eagerness to learn something new. A few of our favorite activities? Storytelling, axe throwing, archery, and hair braiding. (Don't worry, mama: The Vikings are right there to make sure even the littlest kids are doing everything safely).
Pro tip: Take the boat from Flåm station and exit at Viking valley.
3. See Stegastein Viewpoint
More than 2,000 feet above Aurlandsfjord sits Stegastein Viewpoint, a spot designed to let you get as close to the panoramic views as possible. Walk to the glass edge for unbeatable views—and the perfect family photo op! It's about a half hour drive from the main area of Flåm. We recommend taking the bus or hiring a driver to take you up as the roads are narrow and curve around steep ledges.
4. Adventure on the Flåm zipline
Have thrill-seekers in your family? Head to Scandinavia's longest zipline for an adventure of a lifetime. This family-owned operation offers some of the best views in the Nordic region. You'll get safely buckled in at the top at Vatnahalsen and fly like a dragon all the way down. With two lines, a parent can ride adjacent to a child. And, because you probably have all of the things with you, the owners can take those backpacks and bags down on their own line.
Pro tip: Take the Flåm Railway to the Vatnahalsen stop, which is only a couple minute walk to the zip line.
5. Tour the Magic White Caves
We saved one of the best for last. The Magic White Caves of Gudvngen are hidden away in a mountain so once you step inside, you're transported to a surreal labyrinth. With variations of colors, shadows and sounds, your family can let your imagination run wild. The beauty of it is that each person's experience is unique, but you're sure to feel like you just found The Hidden World.
Pro tip: Wear the jackets offered at the front on top of your own as temperatures are *very* cold.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is now available on Digital platforms and on Blu-ray and DVD!
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One of the toughest parts of having the kids home all summer is finding activities that will keep everyone entertained. But, you don't have to go on a grand adventure or spend tons of money to do that, mama. 👏
Set aside one day (or night) a week for an at-home movie night. Make some popcorn, order pizza, lay out pillows and blankets in the living room and curl up with your favorites to watch a movie. Not only will a film keep the kiddos entertained for a couple hours, but they're great conversation starters and can teach valuable life lessons. Want to make it more special? Surprise them with a toy that will give them a hint of what you'll be watching that night!
We picked our favorites that both kids (and mama) will enjoy.
1. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Our toy pick: Toothless plush dragon
We're back with our favorite dragon and Viking, Toothless and Hiccup, for the final installment of this trilogy. On the search for the Hidden World to keep all of the dragons safe, we'll see how far Hiccup and Toothless will go for love, friendship and family. (Psst: The film is finally available on Blu-ray and DVD!)
We interviewed Jay Baruchel (the voice of Hiccup) and writer and director Dean DeBlois. One of Baruchel's fondest memories as a child was watching movies with his mom and having conversations about the themes throughout the films—he hopes HTTYD does the same for families.
DeBlois touched on a theme that every parent can relate to. "There's nothing quite like raising a child and then, despite wanting to protect them and shield them from all of the unknowns in the world, you have to let them go and follow their destiny—and that's a difficult process... that's one of the big topics we tackle in the movie." Now cuddle your littles a little tighter.
2. Christopher Robin
Our toy pick: Winnie The Pooh
This film will bring your own childhood memories back as you make new ones with your kids. Grown Christopher Robin recieves a surprise visit from Winnie the Pooh and the two go on an adventure in the Hundred Acre Wood to find all of Pooh's friends. On this journey, you and your kids will follow along to see what happens when Christopher isn't excited about childhood wonder anymore, but focused on his own priorities... until his daughter encounters the beloved characters.
3. Mary Poppins Returns
Our toy pick: Illustrated edition of the book
The original kids are now grown with their own children, but while going through a tough time and dealing with personal tragedy, Mary Poppins is back to lend a helping hand again.
Throughout the magical adventure, Mary Poppins has a surprise around every turn and the use of imagination is a necessity—but the bigger lesson isn't for the smaller Banks kids. There are valuable lessons about grief, dealing with emotions and becoming resilient throughout.
Our toy pick: Sticker pack
Migo is a Yeti who comes across something he's never seen before, a human. After seeing the 'smallfoot,' he goes back to his village to tell everyone, but when no one believed him, he was banished from his home. His quest to prove that humans do exist takes him on an adventure of a lifetime. Kids will learn about friendship, what it means to be a family, and how to deal when you're feeling different from everyone else.
5. A Wrinkle in Time
Our toy pick: Space water coloring book
This fantasy film will take the entire family on an exploration through time. A young student, Meg, is having trouble accepting that her scientist father disappeared when she was a child. When three figures coming to visit her (Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which) she goes on a brave expedition to find out where her dad is in the universe. Along the way, she'll learn how to conquer her fears, persevere and the importance of kindness, no matter what.
Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.
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When you're pregnant there are so many medical appointments, and many moms look forward to each one. We want to know what is going on with our bodies and our babies. But once the babies are born, many moms aren't able to keep their own medical appointments and experts are worried.
New moms are missing key appointments in the critical fourth trimester, or the first three months postpartum, according to a new study from Orlando Health.
Nearly a quarter of new mothers surveyed admitted that they did not have a plan to manage their own health in the first weeks and months postpartum. The numbers are alarming as nearly half of new moms have admitted to feeling their most overwhelmed, anxious and depressed during that time period.
Worse, the incredibly stressful first few days and weeks of their baby's life is the time when many mothers have admitted to feeling the least supported by their doctors. According to a survey from Healthy Women and 2020 Mom, nearly 30% of women have felt "no support" from their health care provider. This even as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has recently adjusted their guidelines to suggest that women see their doctors within the first three weeks after birth, rather than the traditionally recommended six weeks.
"Seeing your doctor within a few weeks of delivery and sharing any concerns is critical to getting the care and treatment you need," Megan Gray, MD, an OB/GYN at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, told Orlando Health. "The fourth trimester can be difficult and overwhelming for women as their bodies go through physical and emotional changes, and this time deserves the same support and attention as the first three trimesters," Gray said.
Yet, with many women going back to work at six weeks postpartum, up to 40% of moms are missing that first appointment entirely. For most mothers, that represents a rapid and drastic shift in their approach to maternal health care, as prenatal care is full of regularly-scheduled appointments and check-ups. Given that the US remains the most dangerous industrialized country to give birth in, the statistics can't be ignored. As the survey notes, it is impossible for mothers to take care of their babies without taking care of their own health as well.
Still, the onus shouldn't be placed solely on new mothers, who are already riddled with exhaustion and anxiety. With doctors and employers failing to support them, it's hardly surprising that they are struggling to keep up with their appointments or feeling comfortable enough with their doctors to open up about their physical and emotional changes.
In fact, a recent study from Maven reported that as many as 54% of new moms were never even screened for mental health concerns during their pre and postpartum care. Of those who did raise concerns, nearly 30% were not given concrete steps to get treatment.
All of this contributes to the cycle of shame that leads to nearly 60% of new moms experiencing depression and anxiety in silos, only furthering their feelings of extreme isolation. "I thought everything would come more naturally, but it was so much harder than I expected," one mama, Rachel Kobb, told Orlando Health. "Women have been raising babies forever, and I felt selfish for feeling like I couldn't handle it," she said. "I felt very lonely, but I didn't know how to ask for help," she added.
Still, there is hope for new moms, even during those incredibly difficult early months. Medical professionals like Gray and the ACOG are continuing to push for proper training for doctors, midwives and doulas to help new mothers cope with the emotional demands of motherhood, in addition to improved programs for mothers like lowering costs for mental health care and urging companies to provide paid maternity leave for at least the first half of the fourth trimester.
Moreover, simply reminding women that they're not alone is a critically important shift in how society treats new moms who are struggling emotionally.
"There is no perfect mom out there," Gray noted. "Taking some of that pressure off yourself will help you be the best mom you can be and help you better experience the many joys of motherhood."
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When I got my first ultrasound, my doctor measured the peanut-shaped embryo growing inside of me and managed to gift me with the sweet, sweet sound of my baby's heartbeat. I was five weeks along, maybe six, she said. After I told her the first day of my last period, she confirmed that I was in fact six weeks pregnant.
I told her my menstrual cycles were much longer than the 28-day average and wondered if that fact changed anything. But her mind was set: my baby was to be born on October 29, 2014.
My pregnancy, as a nurse later told me, was "boring." I was a healthy 29-year old woman; I didn't have gestational diabetes; and my blood pressure remained steadily normal throughout the pregnancy. There was no reason to believe that I would need to fight for a chance to give birth naturally.
Yet a week before the big day, my doctor informed me that my cervix was not thinning. I was apparently nowhere close to going into labor, and I should schedule an induction to deliver on my due date.
Why the rush, I asked? My son's predicted birth day seemed to be more of an educated guess, and a pregnancy is usually considered late at the 41-week mark. In fact, many doctors are willing to wait until the 42nd week to perform an induction. My OBGYN, on the other hand, regurgitated all the scary science she knew on stillbirths, C-sections and late labors. According to her, I was not an at-risk patient, but I could become one by holding onto the idea of a natural birth. That day (and again on my due date), I did not schedule an induction, and my son was born on November 1, 2014 — three days "late."
As it turned out, my son's tardiness wasn't the exception, but the rule. Only 5% of women deliver on their actual due date, and doctors do recognize that due dates are anything but predictable. So why was I being forced into labor a week before the big day? What did my son and I really risk by waiting it out? And if due dates offer no guarantee, what do they really stand for?
To help prepare for your baby's big debut, we've asked the pros to give us their views on due dates. Here's what they said:
The midwife: Lauren Abrams, CNM, MSN — Clinical Director of Midwifery at Mount Sinai Hospital
"One of the most important things the midwife or doctor does at the first prenatal visit is to establish the due date. Having an accurate due date is crucial, because it allows us to offer prenatal tests at the appropriate time in pregnancy, and it tells us the safest time for the woman to give birth. Many of the tests we do during pregnancy need to be done during a specific time frame, so if the due date is not correct, the results of these tests may not be accurate.
"In terms of labor, we know that a pregnancy is considered full term any time between 37 and 42 weeks after the first day of the last menstrual period, so this is the safest time period in which to give birth. For women who are having uncomplicated pregnancies, it's always best to wait for labor to start on its own.
"Sometimes women ask us to induce the labor before the due date, because they are tired and uncomfortable, or wish to give birth on a certain date; however, for women who are having uncomplicated pregnancies, waiting for labor to start on its own is best, because it gives the woman the best chance of having an uncomplicated vaginal birth and a healthy baby. If labor has not started by 42 weeks, though, we will recommend induction, as we know that babies born after 42 weeks have a higher rate of complications."
The doula: Lindsey Bliss — Carriage House Birth Director & Birth Doula
"Due dates are only based on averages. I wish we could all call it the due month instead. Two weeks before or after the due date is still considered term. I don't know about you but I am not average, nor have I ever fallen within an average range for anything in my life.
"I'm on my sixth baby and not one of them came on their due date. There is this extreme pressure from our society for women to have delivered before or on their due date. This is such an unrealistic expectation. I can't tell you how many unnecessary inductions are performed just because women are considered 'LATE' when they go past 40 weeks. In a healthy pregnancy, I truly believe that labor will start when the baby is ready. I believe in our bodies innate wisdom to give birth."
The OB/GYN: Cara Dolin, MD — OB/GYN, Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellow at NYU Langone Medical Center
“The due date is very important. It tells me how far along my patient is, what developmental milestones I expect to see on the ultrasound, what tests to perform and how to counsel patients. Many management decisions about the pregnancy are made based on the due date, this becomes especially important as a woman's due date comes and goes with no sign of labor.
"There are risks to letting a pregnancy continue beyond the 40th week, including having a very large baby, needing forceps, a vacuum or cesarean delivery and even stillbirth. Because of these risks to both mother and baby, it is recommended that labor be induced before 43 weeks. Many providers will induce labor at 41 weeks. Ultimately, the decision to be induced is made between a woman and her physician or midwife based on the specific circumstances of her pregnancy."
The labor nurse: Jeanne Faulkner — registered nurse and author of Common Sense Pregnancy
"The medical community has quit putting so much emphasis on delivering by the due date. That's because too many inductions fail to lead to vaginal births and too many women end up with C-sections. Too many babies thought to be due or near due, are being delivered just a wee bit too early and ending up in the NICU with breathing problems.
"We know there's a lot of finish work to be completed before a baby is ready to leave the womb and live life independently from its mother. We shouldn't shortchange babies by unnecessarily delivering them early. Even the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees that mothers and babies know best (most of the time, anyway) about when baby should be born. Their most recent guidelines discourage doctors and mothers from scheduling inductions solely for due-date related reasons.
"If a healthy woman with a normal pregnancy is pressured by her doctor or midwife to have an induction or scheduled c-section, she should ask for more information. She needs to understand why her pregnancy or health falls under ACOG's guidelines for appropriate induction. If she's fine and her baby's fine, then it's probably also fine for labor to start on its own."
The acupuncturist: Aimee Raupp — Wellness & fertility expert, acupuncturist
"To me, due dates are approximations. They are calculated based on the first day of the last menstrual period, which is roughly two weeks before a woman ovulates and can even get pregnant. Plus, it can take from 2 to 9 days for the fertilized embryo to implant in the uterine wall. So I encourage my patients to think of their due date as a guesstimate.
"I remind them that babies come when they are ready: they can come early on their own, and they can come later than expected, which is often the case for first time pregnancies. If babies aren't budging, there could be a reason that requires our patience and/or further medical intervention.
"Acupuncture can really get the labor process going, and many women who are nearing or past their due date often come to me (or are referred to me by their doctors). From my experience, acupuncture usually works within one or two visits. When it doesn't, I believe it means that baby just isn't ready to come out.
"Let's not forget, too, that the very definition of a 'full-term' pregnancy varies from one country to the next. Here, 'full term' is technically 40 weeks and 6 days; in some European countries, 'full term' is now 41 weeks and 6 days. But I think that as long as there are no medical reasons—like high blood pressure, swelling, fever, low amniotic fluid, etc—and the woman is still comfortable, it is okay to go past the 'full term' mark.
"When and if the time comes, I rely on signs of early labor, like the baby's low positioning and contractions, to do some treatment and encourage the progression of labor — but only once the woman hits 40 weeks, not before."
The pediatrician: Mona Amin, DO — pediatrician at Tribeca Pediatrics
"A due date does give us a lot of information about what to expect with a baby, especially if he or she is premature (born prior to 37 weeks). We always like to know if the baby ended up needing any support at delivery (i.e. oxygen support, antibiotics, or a stay in the NICU). And when seeing a family for their baby's initial visit, knowing gestational age, along with any complications during pregnancy, gives us, pediatricians, an idea of the baby's transition into the world and of the health outcomes to closely follow.
"For those born post-term (after 40+ weeks), health outcomes are standard to those born term. Some findings with post-term babies include large babies (which can make vaginal deliveries more difficult and require close monitoring of sugar levels), as well as dry flaky skin from being in a water-like environment in mom for so long. The most important thing for these children is to have regular OB exams and fetal monitoring—to make sure that they continue to receive adequate nutrition and perfusion from the placenta.
"Premature babies (especially those born before 32 weeks) can have many of their vital organs affected, as they are not fully developed. So they do require much more visits to their pediatrician and coordination with specialists. They are closely monitored for their breathing, nutrition and heat regulation. We understand that if you have a premature child, you will have many questions and concerns — and rest assure your NICU doctors and pediatrician are ready and willing to walk you through what to expect."