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Calming Colic


Colic is a condition found in babies from just after birth until four or five months of age with inconsolable crying, irritability and what seems to be pain or cramps in the abdomen. Not all crying babies have colic, but babies with colic will have intense periods of crying. They may stiffen their body, or double up like they are in pain. The crying can be very distressing to parents who feel helpless to do anything about it. The most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault. Any baby can have colic.

What causes colic?

The causes are not known yet. Some experts believe that colic is related to the immaturity of a baby’s digestive system. Other think that a baby’s nervous system and inability to handle the constant sensory stimulation that surrounds them cause a breakdown at the end of the day, when colic most often occurs.

There has been research suggesting that a breastfeeding baby who is switched to the second breast after five to ten minutes may be taking in large amounts of “foremilk” which is high in lactose and can ferment in the bowel causing colic, wind and frequent loose bowel motions. Having an overabundant milk supply can also cause this problem.

Some research has shown that some breastfeeding babies seem to react to the cows’ milk products in their mothers’ diets. When these mothers removed all dairy from their diets, some babies’ colic stopped.

Whatever the cause, colic is one of the most upsetting conditions that parents of new babies face.

Calming colic with homeopathy

Homeopathic medicine can resolve colic and stop the crying within a few minutes to an hour. Repeated doses may be needed if the symptoms return. Over the counter homeopathic preparations may only provide short term relief. The most effective homeopathic remedies are the ones prescribed by a homeopath.

Some common homeopathic remedies to help relieve colic

There are many homeopathic remedies that can help relieve colic with the best results if the remedy is individually prescribed by a homeopath. If the baby is unable to tolerate milk the homeopath may choose to prescribe Aethusa, Magnesium phosphoricum, Calcarea carbonica; or Lycopodium. If there is frequent burping, and the baby seems to feel better after burping, Carbo vegetabilis is likely to be needed. For colic in extremely fussy, irritable babies, especially if they arch their backs and are inconsolable, Chamomilla may be indicated. If baby doubles over with the colic or brings his knees up to his chest, then Colocynthis or Magnesia phosphoricum may be prescribed. If the pain seems intense and unbearable and the baby bends his back backwards, then Dioscorea could do the trick. For colic with excessive bloating and gas, particulary if the baby seems to be worse after ingesting milk then Magnesia phosphoricum may be effective.

Other things that may help your baby

Here are some suggestions for other things that may help. If you decide to try one of the suggestions stick with it for a few days. If it doesn’t work, don’t be discouraged just try something else.

• For breastfeeding babies, allow baby to finish the first breast first to maximise the amount of fat per feed. If you suspect an overabundant milk supply offer the same side for two or three feeds while monitoring the other breast for engorgement (express for comfort if needed to relieve any engorgement). Note: one-sided feeding for two or three feeds on one breast should be used with caution in babies who have a history of slow weight gain.

• Breastfeeding relaxes and distracts a baby. It also causes waves of digestive movement from throat to bowel and this can relieve the discomfort of colic. Some babies who have been recently fed, find sucking on a relatively empty breast comforting.

• Posture feeding. Many mothers have found that colic improves if they “posture feed” especially for the early morning feed. Attach baby in the usual way while sitting, then lie back with your baby on your tummy so your baby has to suck “uphill”. Sit up again towards the end of the feed to ensure good drainage of the milk ducts.

• Hold your baby in a more upright position for feeding and directly afterwards.

• If you have a strong let-down reflex your baby cannot swallow and may splutter and choke during feeds. If often helps if you can express some milk before the feed so the first gush subsides before you feed your baby.

• Watch your diet. If you suspect food intolerances eliminate any suspect foods to see if it makes a difference. The most common culprits are dairy foods and wheat. Research has also shown that cutting out sugar and increasing protein can improve colic significantly.

• If bottlefeeding, try different types of bottles and nipples that prevent air from entering your baby as he drinks. If you suspect a dairy intolerance consider switching to a goat milks formula or a hypoallergenic one.

• Raising your baby’s bed at the head end. This is a commonly used method in hospital nurseries for “remote control” burping. This helps any bubbles of wind to rise.

• Rocking and cuddling.

• Walking with your baby rocks him naturally.

• A baby sling can give you some hands free time while carrying your baby close.

• Rhythmical, continuous noise from household appliances, having a radio on a fuzzy station, or a loud “shushing’ in your baby’s ear.

• Music can soothe a baby.

• A dummy can be useful for babies who gain comfort from sucking but whose constant sucking at the breast is causing an oversupply of milk. Many babies can be comforted this way provided they are not hungry. Note that it is recommended that a dummy not be introduced until after the early weeks, until breastfeeding is well established.

• Exercises and massage. Bicycling action with your baby’s legs may help expel bowel gas. Gentle massage can help relax his body.

• A warm bath or shower with a parent, may help a baby to relax at any time of the day.

When should you call the doctor?

Simple colic is not life-threatening nor does it lead to any serious illness. It usually passes on its own in a matter of months. If the baby doesn’t gain weight, vomits excessively, or has persistent diarrhea, medical attention should be sought to determine the cause of the problem.

Iron levels & fertility

iron-non-pregnant-women

Optimal iron levels are so important especially if you are trying to conceive. Not only do you feel crap when you are anaemic but iron deficiency in pregnancy has been linked to thyroid disease & miscarriage.

More than one-third of pregnant women (35%) are iron deficient, placing them at increased risk of a thyroid disease (50% increased likelihood) that increases the likelihood of pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, according to this report from Belgian researchers: Iron Deficiency in Pregnancy Linked to Thyroid Disease

I should also add that low iron can increase your risk of developing postnatal depression as iron is essential for the production of neurotransmitters. Iron is also essential for the production of hormones as well as transporting oxygen to our cells (very important when trying to conceive).

However, never take iron supplements without being tested as iron can be toxic in high doses and it can affect the absorption of some medications. It’s also a good idea to be screened for haemachromatosis prior to taking iron as people with haemachromatosis can present with iron deficiency symptoms.

If iron levels are really low, I usually refer to a medical practitioner who can administer iron infusions as this is a quicker and more effective way to raise iron levels than with supplementation. For example, infusions can restore levels within 2-3 weeks whereas oral supplementation can take months or years. Unfortunately, iron infusions have a bad reputation for causing adverse effects but the latest iron infusions have very minimal side effects and can done as a walk-in/walk-in procedures in 20 minutes. They can be done in some GP clinics, public hospitals or through a private gastroenterologist.

Dealing with autoimmune disease naturally

One of the freaky things about having an autoimmune disease is finding out that your immune system is attacking your body. Talk about sleeping with the enemy!

There are over 80 types of autoimmune diseases, you may have heard of some of them – rhematoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), ulcerative colitis, crohns disease, type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, hashimoto’s, graves, psoriasis, even endometriosis has been recently classified as an autoimmune disease.

Even though there are over 80 different names, they are all doing essentially the same thing, that is, the immune system is attacking some part of the body.  They just have different disease names depending on which part the immune system is attacking. For example, if you had Lupus your body would be attacking multiple tissues whereas if you have Hashimoto’s or Grave’s Disease then your body is attacking your thyroid gland.

As you can imagine, it’s not much fun having an autoimmune disease – the symptoms can range from mild to debilitating with fatigue, joint/muscle pain, weakness, numbness/tingling, brain fog, hair loss, weight gain or loss, digestive issues, and infertility.

The Perfect Storm

Autoimmune diseases are on the increase, the incidence of MS alone has doubled over the past decade. So how does an autoimmune disease develop? One theory is there has to be the “Perfect Storm” of these 3 things coming together:

  • Genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease
  • Leaky gut
  • A trigger

Genetic Predisposition

Autoimmune diseases tend to run in families. You might be the first person in the family to be diagnosed hashimoto’s disease but you may have other relatives who have with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or coeliac disease for example. But you may also notice that other family members will not have any issues with autoimmunity. Just because someone might have inherited the gene it doesn’t mean that they will develop the disease. The gene is the loaded gun – it needs a trigger to be set off (the scientific field of epigenetics which explores how and when our genes get expressed explains this well).

Leaky Gut

A leaky gut is otherwise known as intestinal permeability. It just means that our intestines are letting foreign particles into our bloodstream – a recipe for an immune attack. The structure of our intestines needs to be like a screen door – only letting in the fresh air and keeping out the bad stuff like insects. When our intestines are working well they will secrete the nutrients from our food into our blood supply. When they are leaky, then things like food particles and intestinal bacteria can leach into our systems which just fires up the immune response. What causes a leaky gut? Generally, it’s things like stress, food intolerances, antibiotics, the oral contraceptive pill, or anything that can irritate the intestinal lining and disrupt our good bacteria.

Triggers

  • Stress and hormone imbalances (trauma, anxiety, puberty, pregnancy, menopause, the Pill)
  • Infections (bacteria, yeast, parasites, viruses, candida overgrowth)
  • Toxins (mercury, pesticides, plastics, bisphenol A) these damage our tissues so they look foreign to the immune system
  • Deficiencies (did you know that vitamin D is an immune regulator?)

The natural approach

Conventional medicine will treat the symptoms with things like steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants etc. With natural treatment we aim to “treat the fire, not the smoke” which means we don’t want to just treat the symptoms, we also want to find out what’s triggering the immune system and address that as well.

The natural approach that I take is to identify the triggers, deal with them and heal the leaky gut. This does require some testing (usually stool testing and some blood tests which I can order if they haven’t already been done by a GP). This is what I recommend:

  1. Reduce stress and identify and nutrient deficiencies. Start gut healing support with things like glutamine, slippery elm, bone broths, fermented foods, probiotics. Do not underestimate the important of reducing stress when you are living with an autoimmune disease. The adrenal glands which produce our stress hormones may also need to be supported during treatment.
  2. Identify and remove any infections in the gut (bacteria, parasites, fungal overgrowths). This involves a ordering a stool test which identifies any infections so that we can deal with them. This is also the time to identify and remove any food intolerances (gluten, dairy and sugar seem to be the main culprits). The liver will also need to be supported during this stage.
  3. Once any gut infections have been dealt with, we are then ready to clear out any heavy metal/toxicity/viruses if they are there. My preference is to deal with any toxins AFTER the gut has been cleared as it is important that the gut is working well to eliminate any toxins. The liver will also need to be supported during this stage.

My approach uses homeopathic remedies as well as healthy diet and supplementation to allow you to enjoy life without the debilitating symptoms of an autoimmune disease. This approach can also be used alongside conventional medication.

Recommended Reading

Susan Blum “The Immune System Recovery Plan”
Hashimoto’s Root Cause by Izabella Wentz

New changes to consultations

Just wanted to let you all know that I will be making some changes to the way consultations will be delivered from 20 September 2014.

Since starting in 2007, my practice has developed into a clinic for natural fertility, women’s health and children’s health. With a niche like this, there has been a significant rise in requests for consultations outside of my local area and I now find that my clients are based all over Australia.

These developments have opened up the concept of using technology to reach more people in more places where they need help.

So I have made the decision to move all consultations to Skype, Google Hangouts or phone from 20 September 2014.

After consultation with a number of my local clients, I was surprised to find that many of them also love the convenience of consulting with me via Skype as it allows them to better balance their work and family commitments rather than rushing from place to place. The flexibility will also allow me to offer more consultations at more convenient times to suit my clients.

For those of my clients who have not yet had a Skype consultation with me, it is just like seeing someone in person with live video. It’s great for clients who live interstate, overseas, who have no access to transport or are looking after a baby or young children at home. And best of all, it’s time saving as there is no need to drive anywhere and find a parking space. You can even Skype me in your pyjamas!

While I am sad to leave behind the dream clinic that I created, it is important to move with the times and meet the demands of my clients.

It also allows me to respect my own energy to ensure that I can continue to provide my services to clients in a balanced way where I can help more people without burning myself out in the process.

From my experience, I am confident I can still provide you with the same quality healthcare with an online format. I have been using this format now for over 3 years and I have found that online consultations still allow me to help my clients achieve their health goals in exactly the same way as face to face and the results I am getting are identical. My booking system will continue to work in exactly the same way, just with a change in consultation choices. Remedies can be posted or picked up locally in the Hawthorne area.

Here is a story from one of my clients who lives in Far North Queensland and has been a Skype client from day one:

Shona“Just wanted to say thank you so very much for your support and care throughout my journey. You’ve seen my tears and happiness, and now finally the wonderful gift, our daughter Freya was born on 29 of May weighing a healthy 8lb 8oz.”  Shona

Ladies, it’s time to address Rushing Woman’s Syndrome

Rushing WomanIt’s time to slow down our pace in life.  Women are constantly on the go, doing everything and being all things to all people. And you know what? It’s stuffing up our hormone balance.

We need hormonal balance. When they aren’t balanced, we feel fatigued, moody, irritable, depressed, lose our libido and gain weight. And not only are we suffering from our hormonal imbalances but our partners and kids suffer too. Dr Libby has done an awesome TED Talk on this very issue here

Lisa Curry made a brave admission on A Current Affair last night, that she believed her undiagnosed Rushing Woman’s Syndrome, was a major contributing factor to the tension in her marriage to Grant Kenny and their eventual divorce. If you didn’t see it, here’s a video link

I have often pondered how many relationship breakdowns are due to undiagnosed hormonal imbalances in both women and men (men are also rushing and suffering from low testosterone as a result). If one partner is fatigued, the other has to pick up the slack which causes resentment. If one partner is moody or irritable, it can affect the couple’s intimacy and emotional connection. Mismatched libido’s are another cause of tension in relationships. These are all things that can be improved by balancing our hormones, and a great relationship counsellor 🙂

So how does “rushing” affect our hormones?

The answer lies with our adrenal glands. These are the glands that are responsible for pumping out our stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. To make these hormones, our body uses pregnalone which is also the same substance that it needs to make our sex hormones ie oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

It’s a survival mechanism too, because stress communicates to our cells that our lives are in danger, it’s not surprising that mother nature takes away our progesterone so we can’t get pregnant. The last thing a body’s wants to do is bring a baby into the world if its not safe. As a result, we become deficient in progesterone, which leads to oestrogen dominance, which leads to bad PMT, mood swings, bloating, weight gain, fatigue, thyroid imbalance, low libido and low mood. Our digestion also slows down under the influence of stress hormones so we can end up with bloating and irritable bowel syndrome. Did you know that progesterone has anti-anxiety and anti-depressant qualities? No wonder women feel anxious and overwhelmed premenstrually if their progesterone is low.

And this health problem not only effects women with kids. I am seeing a disturbing trend in women in their 20’s who have too much on their plate and are now suffering from adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalances. It’s also a common picture I see in women who see me for fertility. The pace of modern life is certainly taking its toll on everyone.

Balancing hormones is my thing. It’s something that homeopathy can do really well. I am often amazed how quickly homeopathy can sort out hormonal stuff. Much quicker than herbs in my opinion, although in some cases, the combination of homeopathy and herbs is needed. If you can relate to this article, I recommend booking a consult with me.

In the meantime, make room for some self-care in your life. This can be a challenge because our culture conditions us to believe that we must be busy to survive and be a worthy person. Here are my top tips:

  • Acknowledge that your self worth has got nothing to do with how much you do
  • Be kind to yourself, our thoughts and unrealistic expectations of ourselves can trigger stress
  • It’s okay to say no if someone asks you to do something. Really, really ask yourself if you can fit that in or will you have to burn the midnight oil and waste your precious weekend time to get it done? What is your reason for saying yes to something? Is it because you don’t want to let people down or you feel you need to please everyone. STOP RIGHT THERE. Because that is the number one cause of Rushing Woman’s Syndrome which will only result in exhaustion and unhappiness.
  • Look for things that you can delegate or outsource to free up your time. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Give yourself permission to schedule time to yourself. It’s important for disease prevention.
  • Avoid time-wasting activities like social media (I struggle with this one).
  • Ensure you go to bed before 11pm and get 7 hours sleep (I also struggle with this one).
  • Allow 5-10 mins each day to either meditate to practice deep breathing as this helps to create a sense of calm within the body’s cells. It’s a proven tactic to support the adrenal glands in our crazy world.
  • Eat well, avoid skipping meals. Fill up on natural fats as they are our hormones building blocks
  • Make time to get a regular massage or acupuncture session or a relaxing hobby.
  • Look at your life, is it all work and no play? If so, reduce your workload to make time for relaxation and some social time with friends and family. This is vital to help refill your energy cup and prevent burn-out.

And lastly, you are enough, you don’t need to busy to prove that you are valuable to the world.

Yours in health & happiness,

Inez x

 

 

 

Case Study: Reversing Post-Pill Amenorrhea

No period for 4 years after stopping the Pill (post-Pill amenorrhea)

It’s not well known that a small percentage of women can experience amenorrhea (no periods) after coming off the Pill. This was the case for a lovely 25 year old client of mine who came to see me in 2011 for this very problem.


She had been taking the Pill since she was 18 years old and had stopped taking it 4 years prior to seeing me. But her period never returned during the 4 years after stopping the Pill, despite having a regular cycle previously.

She had tried other things like acupuncture, progesterone cream, diet changes and had all the medical tests “under the sun”. There was no evidence of PCOS and she was freaked out when doctors suspected serious pathology like a pituitary tumour. Thankfully, she was given the all clear. But this didn’t solve her absent menstrual cycle.

A friend who had recently conceived during my fertility program recommended that she come and see me.

And she was glad she did, within a month of homeopathic treatment, her period arrived – and a year later, she was still having a regular menstrual cycle. I had to laugh when she told me that she loves getting her periods every month:

I love getting my period, there is no pain, minimal to no PMS, it’s a breeze, it makes me feel like a woman after having no cycle for so long.

It’s a great case to share with you all as not many women are aware that post-Pill amenorrhea can be reversed with homeopathic treatment. Homoepathic remedies work by stimulating the body’s self-repair mechanisms which is ideal after stopping the Pill.

Remember, the Pill works in the following ways:

  • suppressing ovulation
  • changing the cervical mucus so it’s difficult for sperm to swim to the egg
  • changing the lining of the uterus so it doesn’t grow to its ideal thickness, and
  • changing the movement in the fallopian tubes to reduce the chance of sperm reaching the egg.

So the body needs to get all that working again after you’ve stopped taking the Pill. It’s quite scary isn’t it?

Fortunately, the human body can be amazing in its ability to restore balance which is why some women have no trouble with their cycle returning after stopping the Pill.

But sometimes the body needs help especially if the Pill has really suppressed things. Homeopathic remedies can be great for getting the body back to normal after stopping the Pill because they improve the body’s ability to get everything working again. It’s interesting that the impressive Liz Lalor Fertility Program was originally devised by Liz when she noticed a type of post-Pill infertility in her clients. By reversing the suppression, a woman’s fertility will return and she is more likely to get pregnant.

If you know someone who is experiencing post-Pill amenorrhea, feel free to share this post with them.

If you want to know more about the effects of the Pill on your health, I highly recommend reading the book The Pill: Are You Sure it’s for You?

 

Clomid – the ovulation wonder drug?

conceptionEvery now and then, one of my fertility clients will ask me about Clomid and whether they should take it. Usually they have heard of women having twins after taking the drug so they wonder if it’s the thing they need to boost their own fertility.

Clomid or Serophene (Clomiphene citrate) is a prescription medication used to induce ovulation.  It is usually taken daily for about 5 to 6 days in the early part of the menstrual cycle.

It’s anti-oestrogen

The most interesting thing about Clomid is that it is a synthetic hormone that has an anti-oestrogen effect on the body. By halting oestrogen production, it then tricks the pituitary gland in the brain to make more follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This higher level of FSH then stimulates the development of several ovarian follicles so that you increase the number of eggs available for fertilisation.

So, the main issue with Clomid, is the fact that it is anti-oestrogen. Oestrogen is needed to produce fertile mucus and to thicken the lining of the uterus to nourish a potential pregnancy.  And that’s the thing – an absence of fertile mucus and a thin uterine lining can affect your chances of falling pregnant.

The stats

Clomid has a pregnancy success rate of 5-10% per cycle. Most women are advised to use it for 6 months which provides a 35-40% chance of pregnancy over that period.

The risks

Approximately, 10% of women who use Clomid will have a multiple birth. Some people dream about having twins or triplets but they do come with pregnancy and birthing complications, so in the medical world they are considered a risk.

Clomid also increases the risk of ovarian cysts – most cases the cysts will go away on their own although in a minority of cases they may cause internal bleeding or twist requiring surgery.

There is some research linking the use of Clomid for 12 months or longer to an increase in ovarian cancer.

There is an increase in miscarriage for pregnancies conceived with Clomid, with possible theories being that it can force the development of an egg that has chromosome abnormalities or the thin uterine lining caused by low oestrogen can make it less nourishing for a growing embryo.

The side effects

Many women report side effects associated with low oestrogen such as:

  • vaginal dryness
  • hot flushes
  • no fertile mucus or a thickening of it
  • mood swings & irritability
  • bloating
  • dizziness
  • skin rashes
  • blurry vision
  • breast tenderness

My take on Clomid

My view is because of it’s anti-oestrogen effects as well as the risks and side effects listed above, that the use of Clomid should not be taken lightly. In most cases, we can boost the ovulation process naturally.

However, it can be a wonder drug for women who do not ovulate and are non-responsive to natural treatment. In these cases, I can provide natural support for oestrogen production once the course of Clomid has finished.

 

Iodine – adding fuel to the fire in Hashimoto’s

how-much-iodine-should-you-takeEveryone is so quick to assume that iodine supplementation is needed as soon as you mention you have an underactive thyroid but if you have Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, please note that iodine can potentially flare up your condition.

Most thyroid supplements on the market contains iodine. This is because iodine stimulates the activity of the thyroid peroxidase (TPO) enzyme, which triggers thyroid hormone production – which is what you want when your thyroid is underactive.

BUT when you have Hashimoto’s, TPO is the target of your autoimmune attack, so when you stimulate TPO production, your immune system perceives it to be a foreign invader and mounts an attack which will flare up your Hashimoto’s.

Dr Datis Kharrazian, author of Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms When My Lab Tests Are Normal sums this up nicely:

“I simply believe, based on my research and clinical experience, that iodine is an unnecessary risk when managing Hashimoto’s, especially since we have safer and more effective ways to work with a improperly functioning immune system.”

You can read more about this on Dr Kharrazian’s blog here

The link between Hashimoto’s and gluten

A question that is often asked by people with Hashimoto’s:

“Do I need to go gluten free even if my test results for gluten issues are normal?”

The first thing my GP said to me when I was first diagnosed was “you have hashimoto’s disease and you need to avoid gluten”.  I took her advice seriously and went 100% gluten free and soon after my thyroid antibodies went into remission, my symptoms went away and I started losing that dreaded thyroid weight.

It was only years later when I decided that I was feeling great that I started eating gluten again. That was a huge mistake, my hashimoto’s flared up again and the only way I could get my thyroid antibodies back into the normal range was to go strictly 100% gluten free again.

This is not surprising when you look at the research – several studies have shown a strong link between autoimmune thyroid disease (both Hashimoto’s and Graves) and gluten intolerance. Even the Coeliac Society of Australia lists autoimmune thyroid diseases as a condition associated with coeliac disease.

Why is a gluten free diet recommended for people with Hashimoto’s?iStock Gluten Free

One of the main reasons is something called “molecular mimicry” which basically means that the molecular structure of gluten is very similar to the thyroid gland. Once gluten enters your bloodstream, the immune system targets it for destruction by producing antibodies to it and because the gluten molecule is so similar to the thyroid gland, the body will also start to attack your thyroid. So eating gluten = an immune attack on your thyroid gland.

Is a little bit of gluten okay?

Um, sorry, but no. You need to be 100% gluten free to keep your immune system from attacking your thyroid gland. This point really hit home for me once I learnt that the immune response to gluten can last up to 6 months. So, to sum up, you have to be 100% gluten free to prevent the immune system from destroying your thyroid gland. You couldn’t pay me to eat it now, my health is way more important.

But my gluten test results were normal, doesn’t that mean I don’t have a problem with gluten?

Not necessarily, researchers are finding that there is a variety of gluten intolerance – from coeliac disease to non-coeliac gluten sensitivity – and that many people are intolerant but they are not testing positive with the usual screening tests.

The best way is to try a gluten free diet and see how you feel and get your thyroid antibodies re-tested 3-6 months to see if there is any improvement.

It may sound daunting to take gluten out of your diet, but it’s also exciting that you can take charge and do something to control the immune attack on your thyroid gland.

Check out Chris Kesser’s post on the thyroid-gluten link, as he explains the whole concept in more detail and with links to the research.

 

Postnatal Depression can affect both mum and dad!

One of the most satisfying aspects of my counselling role with the Australian Breastfeeding Association is supporting new parents with their transition from couplehood to parenthood. When I think back to the birth of my first baby in 1998, I remember expecting life at home with a baby to be all rosy and wonderful but the reality was much different. While I loved my newborn son, there were many aspects of being a mum that got me down, like the extra weight I had gained, and the feeling that I was no longer a worthwhile member of society because I didn’t have a fancy job title or income.

And what I was feeling is not unusual for new parents. While society expects us to be happy after the birth of a baby, we can forget that most parents will find some aspects of life with a baby to be difficult. Many of the changes that come with parenthood can create a sense of loss and grief for both partners. Adjusting to these changes can cause some challenges and strong feelings – this is a normal part of becoming a parent BUT if there is a feeling of being consistently unhappy, distressed or anxious then it could be an indication of postnatal depression (PND).

We tend to think of PND as being a women’s problem but a surprising fact is men can also experience PND. It has been said that for every two mums suffering from it, there will be one dad. If one partner is depressed, this can put extra stress and responsibility onto the other partner placing them at risk of depression and anxiety as well. Some experts believe that PND is a MAJOR UNRECOGNISED factor in the breakdown of many relationships as the problems are often due to the depression rather than the relationship itself. If this is the case, then it would make sense for any couple contemplating separation or divorce after the birth of a child to consider being assessed to see if PND is contributing to any relationship difficulties.

And it can be hard to know if you have postnatal depression as you may find other excuses for the way you are feeling or resort to self-blame. Some may suspect they have PND but will find it difficult to admit it or seek help due to the stigma attached to mental illness. Even the most skilled health professional can miss a PND diagnosis as new parents put on a brave face and try to be happy and cheerful when they are with other people.

So how can you tell if you or a friend has PND? The PND support group PANDA lists the following symptoms for both women and men:

PND SYMPTOMS IN WOMEN:

Sleep disturbance unrelated to baby’s sleep
Changes in appetite
Crying – feeling sad and crying without apparent reason OR feeling like you want to cry but can’t
Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control, unable to cope
Irritability
Anxiety
Negative obsessive thoughts
Fear of being alone OR withdrawing from family and friends
Memory difficulties and loss of concentration
Feeling guilty and inadequate
Loss of confidence and self-esteem
Loss of libido

PND SYMPTOMS IN MEN:

Tiredness, headaches and pain
Irritability, anxiety and anger
Loss of libido
Changes in appetite
Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control and unable to cope
Tendency to take risks (affairs, gambling, reckless driving etc)
Changes to sleep patterns, especially a lack of sleep
Feelings of isolation and disconnection from partner, friends or family
Withdrawal from intimate relationships and from family, friends and community life
Increased hours of work as part of the withdrawal from family
Increased use of drugs or alcohol instead of seeking treatment for depression

SUPPORTING SOMEONE WITH PND:

There is a wonderful new parent wellness support group in Brisbane called Peach Tree who encourage expectant parents to ask two important people in their lives to become a “Parenting Partner”, someone who can monitor their emotional wellbeing. What a fabulous idea! New mums often tell me that they get lots of attention from friends and family when their baby is first born but then everyone just expects them to “get on with things” after that. It is so important to have that special someone who can check in on the new family’s emotional wellbeing – whether it is days, weeks, months or even years after the birth of a child.

If one partner is diagnosed with PND, it is important for family and friends to support BOTH partners (the non-PND partner often has to pick up the extra workload of running the household and caring for the baby).

TIPS FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY WANTING TO PROVIDE SUPPORT:

Learn more about PND so you can understand what they may be going through
Ask the couple how you can help
Offer to look after the baby/children
Offer to help around the house “Here, let me unpack the dishwasher”
Let them know you are there for them, even if they don’t feel like talking
Offer to take them for a regular walk or to a support group like the ABA or Peach Tree

TIPS FOR PARTNERS WANTING TO PROVIDE SUPPORT:

Support their treatment and ensure they have ongoing consultations with their medical team and attend regular support group meetings.

Try not to take it personally – it is the illness that is causing your partner to be withdrawn and/or negative.

Reassure your partner that you understand if they are not interested in sex (low libido is a PND symptom and a side effect of some antidepressants) – it would seem the number one advice is to not take it personally!

PND is an illness, it does not help to say “snap out of it” or “get over it”, if it was that easy they would! Let them know you understand that they feel down but reassure them that with the right support and treatment that they will recover.

Encourage them to express their feelings and not bottle them up.

Encourage and support their achievements, no matter how small, comment in a positive way about their relationship with the baby, notice the good things they do and let them know.

Be aware that they are not being lazy if the housework or other jobs are not done (fatigue and lack of motivation are common PND symptoms). Rest is important for recovery.

Reassure your partner that you are there for them as they may fear that you will leave the relationship.

If a mother with PND decides to wean her baby, provide your support for this as her emotional wellbeing is the most important factor. However, it is also important to support her to keep breastfeeding if this is what she wants to do – for some women, breastfeeding is the only thing they feel they are good at.

Go for walks together, exercise can help them to feel better.

Help with the housework and babycare as much as you can.

Accept help from family and friends, allow them to help with housework, shopping, cooking dinner or picking up takeaway food.

Pay for household help if finances allow it.

Take care of yourself while you are supporting your partner as the extra stress can lead to exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed. Remember that having a partner with depression can put you at risk of developing it so find someone you can talk to about your concerns and feelings and don’t feel that you have to do everything yourself, get a friend or family member to take over if you feel you need a break.

Always trust your instincts if you become concerned about your partner or the wellbeing of your children, seek medical assistance if there is talk of harming themselves or the baby, strange thoughts or speech patterns, doing something dangerous, behaviour that seems odd or out of character, severe change in mood, withdrawal from all social contact, extreme despair or obsession with morbid ideas or statements like “they’d be better off without me”

Avoid blaming yourself as PND is an illness, you wouldn’t blame yourself if they had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Thankfully with early detection, support, counselling and treatment, it is possible to recover from PND and enjoy life again.