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15 Things To Expect In Your Third Trimester

15 Things To Expect In Your Third Trimester

Ah, pregnancy! The miracle of life! For those of us fortunate enough to experience it, we know it to be one of the most magical, difficult, surreal and challenging passages of life. Just as no two women are identical, no two pregnancies are the same: some women breeze through pregnancy, whereas others spend their 40 weeks trying to muster the strength to get out of bed every day.

By the time you’ve reached the 28 week mark, you and your baby have officially made it through two thirds of your pregnancy. Congratulations! But although the finish line may be in sight, your body and your baby’s body still have plenty of work to do preparing the both of you for what lies ahead: labor, delivery, and the rest of your lives together!

My pregnancy was a text-book study of (almost) everything that could possibly happen in those blessed 40 weeks. Seriously. Short of gestational diabetes and mood swings, I experienced every pregnancy symptom I (and my doctors) had ever heard of. Whilst most women usually experience a handful of these symptoms to varying degrees, for some women (like me) they can be more severe. Whereas, for others, they may be non-existent!

If at any time during your pregnancy you are concerned by what you are experiencing in your body, be sure to check with your health practitioner as soon as you can. Here are some of the things that can happen during the third trimester…

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Fatigue

Imagine carrying around a 4-5kg sack of potatoes for a day… no wait a minute- you don’t have to! That’s technically what you’re doing already, except it’s a sack of amniotic fluid with a baby inside. Although our bodies are designed not to calculate the extra weight of the rising bun in our oven, we are still under the strain of carting it about. Add to that the many changes and transformations still going on inside of you, the pressures of living your day to day life, and the fact that you might be having trouble sleeping (from the awkwardness of your bump or the need to use the bathroom every 45 minutes)- and you’ve got a sure-fire recipe for sleepiness! This is one symptom that will carry on, perhaps for a long while even after the birth, when you have a newborn to take care of, so it’s probably best to try sleep as much as you can, or at least put your feet up and relax at every opportunity.

Stretch Marks

It’s undeniable. People who previously hesitated before congratulating you now do so without restraint as your bump is more and more prominent by the day. In the last trimester, most of baby’s internal organs and systems are formed, so now your little one is mostly concentrating on growing. Stretch marks, basically stripes across parts of your body that have been stretched over a short period of time, affect roughly 80% of pregnant women, and can break out across your belly, thighs, arms, breasts and bottom. They can also appear overnight. I had a single little stretch mark under my massive belly, which I found quite cute. I woke up one morning and to my horror discovered seventeen more of them streaking their way across my bump. They aren’t painful, but can get a little itchy if your skin gets too dry.

Unfortunately, skin elasticity is mostly genetic, so there’s not much that can be done to truly avoid getting them. The good news is that they do fade with time and become barely noticeable after a year or so. Word to the wise- spending time in the sun can dry out your skin, increasing your risk of getting stretch marks and causing any marks you already have to darken and become more prominent. For this reason, it’s best to avoid tanning your belly, chest and thighs whilst pregnant. Read more about stretch marks here.

Varicose Veins

As your baby grows, their weight will put pressure on some of the major veins that carry blood between your legs and your heart. This can result in blood pooling, usually in your extremities, which can cause dark, spider-like veins, called varicose veins, to appear sprawling around your ankles, knees and thighs. Compression tights and stockings can help improve circulation. Otherwise, these veins usually disappear within a few months of giving birth. Should some linger, there are surgeries that can be done to get rid of them. Read more about varicose veins here.

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Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are actually a form of varicose vein that crop up in and on the outside of your rectum due to poor circulation. They can be very painful, and cause bleeding when you go to the toilet, but they too usually disappear within a few months of giving birth (although the pushing in delivery can make them worse). There are treatments that can help ease the discomfort they cause, as can special cushions. Read more about hemorrhoids here.

Heartburn, Re-flux and a Decrease in Appetite

Remember the days when you couldn’t keep anything down? And remember the days following that when there was no fridge big enough to hold all the food you were craving? Well, surprisingly, you might find yourself having come full circle in the third trimester. As baby grows and takes up more room in your belly, your expanding uterus will put pressure on most of your internal organs, especially your stomach and intestines. This may shrink the amount of food you feel like eating; you may even lose a few pounds in the last two months. This increased pressure is also partly responsible for other digestive troubles, such as heartburn, acid re-flux, and even bouts of vomiting. Read more here.

Water Retention

In these last few months, you may find yourself packing on the pounds, even though you might be not be increasing your food intake. It’s probably due to your body retaining more water and, once again, poor circulation is to blame. Oedema, the official term for swelling, usually occurs in the feet, ankles and legs, but can happen all over your body, especially in hot weather. Compression tights, sitting or lying down with your legs raised above your heart, and massaging your feet in icy cold water can all provide relief. Reminding yourself that it doesn’t last forever, and that you’ll deflate within a few days of giving birth can also help.

However, should find yourself swelling up suddenly and drastically within a matter of days, contact your medical practitioner so that they can keep an eye on you, as severe oedema is also an early symptom of pre-eclampsia. Otherwise, be sure to drink plenty of water and moisturize your skin regularly to avoid the appearance of stretch marks. Read more about oedema here.

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Incontinence

It’s not just your digestive system that’s under pressure from baby, your bladder is too! As gravity does its thing the entire amniotic sac/baby combo weighs down heavily on your pelvic organs, causing you to rush (or waddle at high speed) to the nearest bathroom at every opportunity. You might also find yourself having a few little ‘accidents’ when you cough, sneeze or laugh. This is due to the stretching and subsequent weakening of your perineal muscles- the hammock like muscular system between your legs that holds up your internal organs. Kegels exercises can help strengthen this area, and are crucial for getting your entire body back into shape postpartum. Read more about kegels here.

Aches and Pains

That growing baby can also take its toll on your back, hips and other joints. The sheer weight of carrying an extra 4-5kgs can lead to some seriously uncomfortable muscular tugs and pulls, usually between the small of your back down to the bottom of your spine. Pains in and around the bottom of your bulging belly are also caused by ligaments being stretched to accommodate your growing bump, and are officially (and appropriately) called Round Ligament Pain. Luckily, your body is secreting the hormone relaxin, to relax tension in your joints and make it easier to carry such a heavy burden. Alternatively, you can relieve some of your aches and pains by soaking in a warm, but not too hot, bath, having a massage from a certified, prenatal masseuse, or wrapping your belly to take the pressure off your back. This YouTube tutorial shows how.

Nesting Instinct

Weirdly, amidst the sleep deprivation, heartburn and back pain, you may find yourself buzzing with energy- sometimes at the weirdest times. The nesting instinct is basically just that- an irresistible urge to ‘nest, or make your environment (and yourself) ready to receive baby. Some women wake up in the middle of the night to get through piles of ironing, others rearrange their homes every week for two months. Repainting, reupholstering, cleaning, sorting, scrubbing… I personally disinfected every kitchen cupboard and appliance with a fine toothbrush, and scrubbed my sinks and bathtub within an inch of their lives! This instinct, while surreal to you and anyone living with you, is perfectly natural and a good sign that all is in order with your hormones as baby is on its way.

Leaky Breasts

Your tummy isn’t the only thing expanding in preparation for baby’s arrival into this world- your baby’s first (and favorite) food source is also getting into gear. Your breasts may have deflated somewhat in the second trimester, but they will most likely be back at their biggest and bulkiest in these last few months. You might even find them squirting or leaking a little milk when stimulated or squashed. If your breast don’t leak before the birth, there’s nothing to worry about, as most women’s milk only comes in after the baby has been born. Read more about changes in your breasts here.

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Impatience and frustration

I have yet to meet anybody who loved every minute of being pregnant. All of the women I talk to admit to it being a long, loooooong process. Especially towards the end, when the thrill and novelty of the experience has worn off, and you find yourself too heavy to move around, too uncomfortable to sleep, and too nauseous to eat. Just remember: this too shall pass, and within a matter of weeks!

People’s remarks

An interesting pregnancy phenomenon: when a women is with child, her body seems to become public property- to be discussed, scrutinized and even touched, sometimes by complete strangers! I cannot count how many passersby stroked or patted my belly, each with a piece of advice or prediction about my baby’s gender. Many people also seem to lose all sensitivity, so be prepared to field comments on your weight gain: “You look like you’ve swallowed a beach ball!”, or inability to birth the baby soon enough, “You’re still here? What are you waiting for??” Cultivate a standard ‘smile and nod’ reaction, or feel free to tell people when they’re bothering you. You’ll find that most people won’t take offence. You’re pregnant, you can get away with quite a bit!

Dropping

As your due date approaches, you might feel and notice your bump hanging lower than usual. This is, very simply, because that’s exactly what it’s doing. In anything from a few weeks to a few days before labor, baby will realize that it’s time to make its grand debut, and will engage its little head in preparation for birth.

A Few Trips to the Hospital or Birthing Center

If this is your first baby, chances are you’ll make a few wrong calls about when it’s on its way. Outside of emergency symptoms (such as your water breaking or bleeding), first time mothers can spend many hours, even days in labor. Labor pains are easily confused, especially if you don’t know what they feel like! Gas, indigestion, an upset tummy or even just a vigorous kick from your little munchkin can all be mistaken for contractions. Hospitals advise that parents only come in when the contractions are regular and at a certain interval, usually 4-5 minutes apart. As soon as contractions start, it’s best to call your doctor to see what they advise, otherwise you risk making the journey just to be sent back home which, even in the stages of early labor, is very frustrating and disheartening. Read more here.
Best of all, at the end of this long journey, when your body has worked hard crafting a living being inside of you, the greatest thing you can expect is the moment that makes it all worthwhile: when you hold your beautiful, squidgy little baby in your arms for the first time!

Featured photo credit: Juanedc via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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