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Pregnancy At Week 24

Pregnancy At Week 24

Pregnancy is a challenging time for the mother, her partner, and the growing fetus. Being a critical phase for the development, of the baby’s respiratory system and the prevalent risks of complexities from Gestational diabetes, the 24th week is one of the crucial time periods during pregnancy.

Development of mother’s body

The top of the uterus can be felt about 2 inches (5 cm) above the belly button and is about the size of a soccer ball. These symptoms are common during 24th week of pregnancy:

  • The skin around abdomen and breasts might get dry and itchy since it is stretched.
  • The eyes may feel more sensitive and dry.
  • Slight heartburn or gastritis may be experienced.

Status of baby’s growth

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Human Fetus Week 24

    The baby has a weight of about 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg) and is about a foot (30 cm) tall: roughly the size of an ear of corn. The skin of the baby is translucent. The baby’s brain, facial muscles, and taste buds are still in the developmental phase.

    This period is very crucial for the baby’s respiratory system since it goes through very drastic changes. The lungs develop branches of the respiratory tree and the cells that produce surfactant. Surfactant is a substance that assists the air sacs in inflating while in an external environment. Into 24 weeks of pregnancy, the issues such as unplanned pregnancies are left well behind and the couple are only looking forward to welcoming the baby to their world.

    Possible risks

    As we already said, the 24th week of pregnancy is an important time; if proper measures and actions are not taken during this period, it might be risky for both the mother and the baby, and can bring complications. Some of the risks are as follows:

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    Complexities due to Gestational diabetes

    Gestational diabetes is a high blood sugar condition during pregnancy. Approximately 2-5% of women will develop Gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. The major symptoms of Gestational diabetes are:

    • High sugar amount in urine
    • Excessive thirst and hunger
    • Frequent urination
    • Fatigue
    • Nausea

    Untreated diabetes might be followed by following complications:

    • Difficulties during vaginal delivery: Diabetes causes the baby to grow too large, mainly in its upper body which increases the risk of difficulties during delivery. In some cases, the delivery becomes so difficult that a cesarean section needs to be performed.
    • Complications with the baby:The baby is under a risk of developing a disproportionate body with an unusually large upper body. It might also have other complications like low blood sugar after its birth.

    Between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy, the placenta produces large amounts of hormones that may cause insulin resistance, so it is recommended to check for and take actions against Gestational diabetes during this period.

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    Respiratory problems in the baby

    This period is when the respiratory system of the baby undergoes drastic changes and the system is not yet strong enough to save itself from respiratory problems like pneumonia, asthma, respiratory tract infection, etc.

    Excessive dryness and irritation in the mother

    Dryness in the skin and the eyes of the mother is common during this time. If not taken proper care of, this can lead to long-term irritation and dryness in the eyes and the skin.

    Tips to alleviate the risks

    The following measures can be taken in order to avoid the probable risks and to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the baby during pregnancy at week 24:

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    Check for Gestational diabetes

    It is recommended to run a Glucose Screening Test or Glucose Challenge Test (GCT) around the 24th week of pregnancy. In case of a positive GCT result, the mother will have to take another test called Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT)/ If the mother is diagnosed with diabetes, she should consult the doctor to avoid further complications.

    Avoid respiratory hazards

    The mother should avoid exposure to smoke, dust, cold, bacteria and other respiratory hazards because the developing respiratory system of the baby is prone to various kinds of respiratory diseases.

    Use a hot sauna bath

    A hot sauna bath helps in reducing pregnancy aches and helps the body muscles of the mother to relax. It also enhances natural growth hormone production which ensures proper growth and development of the baby. It is also known that spending time in a sauna results in a reduction in the insulin and blood glucose level, which can be used as a control measure against Gestational diabetes.

    Yoga saunas are even better as they combine the benefits of yoga and the sauna. However, one should be careful not to spend too much time in the sauna and/or under higher temperature locations which may cause the body to overheat and even cause genetic abnormalities in the baby.

    Featured photo credit: First Pregnancy photo session by Benjamin Magana via flickr.com

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    Published on November 30, 2018

    Signs of Postnatal Depression And What to Do When It Strikes

    Signs of Postnatal Depression And What to Do When It Strikes

    Postpartum depression (PPD) strikes about 15% of women around childbirth.[1] Moreover, this mood disorder is estimated to affect 1% to 26% of new fathers.[2] The causes of which are thought to be linked to hormonal changes, genetics, previous mental illness and the obvious change in circumstance.

    The stigma of mental health – with or without support from family members and health professionals – often deters women from seeking help for their PPD. In this article, I will show you 10 ways to begin overcoming PPD.

    Symptoms of Postnatal Depression

    Postnatal depression is defined as depressive disorder, beginning anytime within pregnancy up to the first year of the child’s life. The symptoms of post natal depression are the same as those of depression. In order to receive a diagnosis from the doctor, 5 symptoms must be shown over a two week period. The symptoms and criteria are:

    • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, nearly every day, for most of the day or the observation of a depressed mood made by others
    • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
    • Weight loss or decreased appetite
    • Changes in sleep patterns
    • Feelings of restlessness
    • Loss of energy
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • Loss of concentration or increased indecisiveness
    • Recurrent thoughts of death, with or without plans of suicide
    • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities
    • Low libido
    • Fatigue, decreased energy and motivation
    • Poor self-care
    • Social withdrawal
    • Insomnia or excessive sleep
    • Diminished ability to make decisions and think clearly
    • Lack of concentration and poor memory
    • Fear that you can not care for the baby or fear of the baby
    • Worry about harming self, baby, or partner

    Should you, a friend or your partner be showing any of these signs, I recommend you to seek medical advice.

    Causes of Post Natal Depression

    It is worth noting here that there is a difference between what is commonly known as ‘The Baby Blues’ and post natal depression.

    Postpartum blues, commonly known as “baby blues,” is a transient postpartum mood disorder characterized by milder depressive symptoms than postpartum depression. This type of depression can occur in up to 80% of all mothers following delivery. The Baby Blues should clear within 14 days, if not it is likely an indicator of something more in depth.

    It is not known exactly what causes post natal depression, however there are some correlating factors. These factors have a close correlation and haven’t been shown to cause PPD:

    • Prenatal depression or anxiety
    • A personal or family history of depression
    • Moderate to severe premenstrual symptoms
    • Stressful life events experienced during pregnancy
    • Maternity blues
    • Birth-related psychological trauma
    • Birth-related physical trauma
    • Previous stillbirth or miscarriage
    • Formula-feeding rather than breast-feeding
    • Cigarette smoking
    • Low self-esteem
    • Childcare or life stress
    • Low social support
    • Poor marital relationship or single marital status
    • Low socioeconomic status
    • Infant temperament problems/colic
    • Unplanned/unwanted pregnancy
    • Elevated prolactin levels
    • Oxytocin depletion

    One of the strongest predictors of paternal PPD is having a partner who has PPD, with fathers developing PPD 50% of the time when their female partner has PPD. [3]

    Ways to Overcome Post Natal Depression

    1. Seek Medical Help

    As knowledge of PPD grows, more and more physicians are becoming aware of the indicators and risk factors. This means that health care providers are looking for signs as early as their first prenatal care visit.

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    If you are at risk, letting your provider know early in your pregnancy means that you’ll be given extra support and care throughout the process. It is best to seek treatment as soon as possible.

    If it’s detected late or not at all, the condition may worsen. Experts have also found that children can be affected by a parent’s untreated PPD. Such children may be more prone to sleep disturbances, impaired cognitive development, insecurity, and frequent temper tantrums.

    2. Therapy

    This is the first line of defence against post natal depression and will commonly be prescribed alongside medication. Around 90% of post natal depression cases in women are treated with a combination of the two treatments.

    You don’t need to do anything special to prepare. Your counselor will ask questions about your life, and it’s important you answer honestly. You won’t be judged for what you tell, and whatever you talk about will be just between the two of you. Your counselor will teach you how to look at some things differently, and how to change certain habits to help yourself feel better.

    Therapy is personalized for everyone, but women in counselling for postpartum depression often discuss topics including; who you’re feeling, your behaviour, your actions and your life. (If you need immediate support please call the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240. The toll-free call is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)

    3. Medication

    There have been a few studies of medications for treating PPD, however, the sample sizes were small, thus evidence is generally weak.

    Some evidence suggests that mothers with PPD will respond similarly to people with major depressive disorder. There is evidence which suggests that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are effective treatment for PPD.

    However, a recent study has found that adding sertraline, an SSRI, to psychotherapy does not appear to confer any additional benefit. Therefore, it is not completely clear which antidepressants are most effective for treatment of PPD.

    There are currently no antidepressants that are FDA approved for use during lactation. Most antidepressants are excreted in breast milk. However, there are limited studies showing the effects and safety of these antidepressants on breastfed babies.

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    4. Communication with Partner

    Don’t blame yourself, your partner, close friends or relatives. Life is tough at this time, and tiredness and irritability can lead to quarrels.

    ‘Having a go’ at your partner can weaken your relationship when it needs to be at its strongest. It can be a huge relief to talk to someone understanding.

    By spending time with your partner doing activities that you both enjoy, like going for a walk, can really help. This change of state, from moving location, can significantly elevate mood whilst providing ‘neutral ground’ in which to open up communication.

    Be honest with your partner and show ways in which they can support you best through this time, even if it’s just talking or letting you have time to go take a shower.

    5. Self Care and Rest

    Don’t try to be ‘superwoman’. Try to do less and make sure that you don’t get over-tired. It’s common that women are the experts at ‘being busy’ and ‘doing it all’.

    Rest whilst the baby is sleeping, and really take time to prioritise yourself. Throughout life, if you’re constantly giving out energy, you will be left feeling unbalanced. It’s important to become aware of one’s energy and making sure to give yourself energy first, before giving out is imperative.

    Your body has just been through the trauma of the birth, which is very stressful. It therefore needs time to recover so taking time to yourself is important. Things as simple as a cup of tea, or shower or listening to music will really help.

    6. Supplementation (especially DHA)

    St John’s Wort is a herbal remedy available from chemists. There is evidence that it is effective in mild to moderate depression. It seems to work in much the same way as some antidepressants, but some people find that it has fewer side-effects.

    One problem is that St John’s Wort can interfere with the way other medications work. If you are taking other medication, you should discuss it with your doctor. This is very important if you are taking the oral contraceptive pill. St John’s Wort might stop your pill working. This can lead to an unplanned pregnancy.

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    It is also worth noting that fish oil (containing DHA) is being shown to correlate with lower instances of PPD. DHA consumption during pregnancy — at levels that are reasonably attained from foods — has the potential to decrease symptoms of postpartum depression,” conclude study researchers led by Michelle Price Judge, PhD, RD, a faculty member at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing.

    7. Movement

    Before starting any exercise program, you should consult with your doctor and find a fully qualified pre and post natal specialist. That being said, there is plenty of movement that can be done prior to ‘hitting the gym’, such as walking.

    Not only does being outside positively benefit you by getting some fresh air and vitamin D. The same is said for your baby, who will likely sleep better once they’ve been outside. Exercise gets your endorphins going, which helps alleviate depression symptoms, It can also get you focused on something for yourself. In an analysis of data from 1996 to 2016, researchers discovered that moms who stayed physically active after birth experienced fewer depressive symptoms.[4] In contrast, one study found women who led a more sedentary lifestyle were, in general, more likely to experience postpartum depression in the first place. [5]

    The type of workout doesn’t matter much. Yoga for pregnant women, stretching, and cardio are essentially equal in terms of making you feel better.

    8. Socializing and Support Groups

    Do go to local groups for new mothers or postnatal support groups. Your health visitor can tell you about groups in your area. You may not feel like going to these groups if your are depressed.

    See if someone can go with you. You may find the support of other new mothers helpful. You may find some women who feel the same way as you do.

    9. Accept Help

    Some cultures believe that the symptoms of postpartum depression or similar illnesses can be avoided through protective rituals in the period after birth. Chinese women participate in a ritual that is known as “doing the month” (confinement) in which they spend the first 30 days after giving birth resting in bed, while the mother or mother-in-law takes care of domestic duties and childcare.

    Whilst this may seem extreme, it’s worth noting that being able to accept help from your friends, partner and family can be extremely beneficial.

    10. Avoid Smoking, Drink and Drugs

    Which may seem common sense, however you may be tempted by the short term ‘fix’.

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    Don’t use alcohol or drugs. They may make you feel better for a short time, but it doesn’t last. Alcohol and drugs can make depression worse. They are also bad for your physical health.

    Final Thoughts

    Most women will get better without any treatment within 3 to 6 months. One in four mothers with PND are still depressed when their child is one-year-old. However, this can mean a lot of suffering.

    PND can spoil the experience of new motherhood. It can strain your relationship with your baby and partner. You may not look after your baby, or yourself, as well as you would when you are well.

    PND can affect your child’s development and behaviour even after the depression has ended. So the shorter it lasts, the better.

    Sometimes there is an obvious reason for PND, but not always. You may feel distressed, or guilty for feeling like this, as you expected to be happy about having a baby. However, PND can happen to anyone and it is not your fault.

    It’s never too late to seek help. Even if you have been depressed for a while, you can get better. The help you need depends on how severe your illness is. Mild PND can be helped by increased support from family and friends.

    Featured photo credit: Derek Thomson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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