While your healthcare provider can arm you with knowledge about your health and that of your burgeoning bump, there are plenty of other things that may require outside support. From hotlines to online communities to nationwide organizations, there is a wealth of information and assistance available to help you navigate and cope with the potential pitfalls of pregnancy.
Depression is the most common complication of pregnancy, but most moms are familiar only with postpartum depression, or depression after baby’s birth. Perinatal depression, however, can occur at any time during pregnancy. Depression during pregnancy often goes undiagnosed because many of the signs and symptoms are similar to the discomforts of pregnancy. It’s important to distinguish between normal woes and signs of serious depression, since untreated depression can lead to poor nutrition or drug and alcohol use, which can negatively impact baby.
You may chalk up crying frequently or regularly feeling sad, cranky or anxious to your body’s swirling hormones, but constantly feeling down in the dumps is an indicator of depression. Loss of appetite or binge eating, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, as well as not wanting to care for yourself (bathing, dressing and combing your hair) are also symptoms to note. If you’re worrying too much about your baby—or, conversely, find yourself not caring at all—or if you have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, seek help immediately.
The Postpartum Depression Hotline (which helps women with perinatal depression too) is available 24/7 at 800/PPD. MOMS (773.6667). You can also find support online at 1800ppdmoms.org. Postpartum Support International offers information and live chats to expectant and new moms and dads at 800/944.4PPD (4773) and online at postpartum.net.
The financial burden of pregnancy and parenting can be daunting, especially if you find yourself out of work or in a situation where you can’t spare a lot of cash. State governments offer various assistance programs, including the federally funded program Medicaid, to help you take care of yourself and prepare for baby. Contact your state’s departments of health, human resources, and child welfare to determine your eligibility. Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods, healthcare referrals and nutrition education for low income pregnant, nursing and postpartum women, along with their infants and children up to age 5. Find out more about this program online at www.fns.usda.gov/wic.
Each year, about 324,000 pregnant women are abused by their intimate partners. While the most common form of domestic violence is assault, domestic violence isn’t just physical. Any action that causes psychological harm—such as name-calling, humiliation, constant criticism and verbal threats—and sexual abuse also constitute domestic violence.
Leaving an abusive home can be intimidating, but it’s more important now than ever before to care for yourself and your unborn baby. Violence during pregnancy can cause a miscarriage or preterm labor. The physical harm can also cause fetal injury, hemorrhaging, uterine rupture or placental separation. The national hotline for domestic violence is available around the clock and in more than 170 languages at 800/799.SAFE (7233) and online at thehotline.org. The hotline provides safety planning, support and crisis help, and contact information for local shelters and other services in your community.
According to the March of Dimes, about 150,000 babies are born with birth defects in the United States annually. A birth defect, also known as a congenital abnormality, is loosely defined as a health problem that occurs in a baby’s growth or development before birth. This covers everything from Down syndrome to spina bifida to genetic disorders. Birth defects can be caused by either environmental factors, such as smoking or infection, or genetic factors, which are passed down from mom and dad.
Finding out your child-to-be has a birth defect can be heartbreaking. It’s important to acknowledge your emotions and possible feelings of disappointment. Be proactive. Ask questions and assess your baby’s future needs to establish a treatment plan that includes feeding support, occupational, physical or speech therapy, nutrition services and social work services. Establishing a care plan will help you learn in advance how to care for your baby and get you well on your way to locating essential services and making important decisions.
The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, online at nichcy.org, can connect you to national organizations and agencies for support and information, as well as help you find assistance and support in your state and community. The Fetal Hope Foundation provides an extensive overview of many fetal syndromes, birth defects and congenital conditions. The foundation works to raise awareness and funding for medical research as well as provide support to parents and families. You can find the foundation at 877/789.HOPE (4673) and online at fetalhope.org.
The number of twins born each year in the U.S. has nearly doubled since 1980, and higher order births—triplets, quads and quints—have also increased. The rise in prevalence of multiple births is due in part to the increased use of fertility treatments.
Though it can be overwhelming, there are plenty of organizations to help moms and dads of multiples get ready. The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Club, at at nomotc.org, is a nonprofit organization that provides online support for mothers of twins and higher order birth babies, as well as connects moms to local support groups.
Mothers of Supertwins, at mostonline.org, is a community of families, volunteers and professionals that provides information and support for prenatal care, birthing and parenting of multiples. It offers online family support forums and trained mentor volunteers, who can be reached by email or by telephone at 631/859.1110.
One of the best ways to prepare for single motherhood is to establish your support system early on. Decide who will be present with you in the delivery room, and determine who will be your emergency contact or make decisions for you should the situation require it. Consider your needs after the birth and arrange to have family members or friends stay with you if you’d like an extra set of hands to help you with feedings, dishes, diaper changes and the general transition into motherhood. Research a local babysitter or childcare facility, or recruit family members to watch your bundle once you return to work.
There are ample online groups and forums offering mentorship, advice and support. Choicemoms.org, created by Mikki Morrisette, author of Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman’s Guide, provides a community of information about choosing and preparing for single motherhood and raising children.
Early or late motherhood
Today, thanks to advances in fertility treatments coupled with women who are choosing to wait longer before getting pregnant, one in seven babies is born to a mother who is at least 35 years old. Older moms and their babies-to-be face greater obstacles, from an increased risk for pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and hyper- tension to premature birth and low birth weight. Though more women are waiting to start families, older moms may still be the minority at the playground. Motherhoodlater.com is an online support blog with forums chock-full of advice for all the grievances of motherhood later in life. This community can also connect you to local support groups in your area to meet with other moms face-to-face. Young and first-time mothers often face greater societal pressures during and after pregnancy. Young moms might hear that they’re too young to make the right decisions, let alone support a child. These young moms need just as much help and support as older moms navigating pregnancy and parenting without crumbling at the passing judgment of others. Created by a young mother, youngmommies.com provides support and information for young mothers. You can connect with others through online chats and discussion boards too.