Anti-Vaxxers Are Playing Russian Roulette With Our Children’s Lives

There is a growing subculture of parents deciding not to vaccinate their children. The discredited claim by Andrew Wakefield that vaccines cause autism has been described as “perhaps, the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years”. He has been charged with abuse of developmentally challenged children and his link between autism and vaccines are described to be utterly false and quite literally MADE UP!!!!! He is responsible for the spread of serious illness and death. Surely he should be tried for murder!

I decided to write this blog a couple of months ago when I encountered an anti-vaxxer pharmacist, who attempted to undermine my decision to vaccinate my children. As a member of the scientific community, I feel completely confident in my decision to vaccinate my kids. I have thoroughly investigated pier reviewed scientific papers, in an effort to make an informed decision. I was absolutely furious that someone in a position of giving medical advice, could be spreading fear and harmful nonsense to parents! Needless to say, he no longer works at that pharmacy.

A doctor has just informed me that my 9 month old baby has rubella (aka German measles). In the developed world, in this day and age, where prevalence of rubella had dropped to almost 0, I am shocked! Thank you anti-vaxxers! Despite being  decidedly miserable, the risk of this disease to him is minimal. However, if he comes in contact with a pregnant woman lacking immunity, the risk to her unborn baby is substantial, causing birth defects and death. I am doing my best to keep my baby away from crowds, and keeping him in a ‘ bubble’ of sorts with his rain cover up when I must go out.  I feel that it is my duty to be a responsible member of society and not to put others at an unnecessary risk! Vaccination not only protects our own families. It protects our vulnerable members of society; our babies who are waiting for vaccination, our unborn babies, those for whom the vaccine doesn’t work (the mechanism of which is not yes fully understood)! and for the small group of those, who are allergic to some component of certain vaccines. I am not suggesting of course that you would put your children at risk for the greater good or any such nonsense. I would argue that you are saving your child from intense suffering and from a great number of potentially fatal diseases! Society at large also benefits however and many lives are saved.

One argument in the anti-vaxxer literature,  is that many of these are common childhood diseases and sure it’ll only strengthen their immune systems! I am a parent, who is far from perfect and fell into this way of thinking in the past. Its a widely held belief that chickenpox is a sort of rite of passage for children. Being on that learning curve of parenthood, I blindly believed this and  purposely exposed my eldest son to this disease! Chickenpox is a serious childhood disease! I cannot express enough the guilt I felt as my helpless little one  cried all night burning with a fever! His little body squirming, trying to scratch at the endless coat of blisters that even covered his tiny eyelids! My baby boy was suffering for a decision I had made for him! I will be vaccinating my baby Logan as soon as is allowed (age 1)!

As regards exposing children to bugs in order to develop their immune system……. This idea is valid and a child is exposed to millions of different bacteria constantly! There is no need to expose kids to serious and life threatening diseases thus playing Russian roulette with children’s lives.

I have done a lot of research before writing this blog, being careful to fairly assess both sides of the argument. I am aware that many anti-vaxxer parents are trying to do what they believe to be right for their children. Its terrifying to hold the life of another human being in your hands and I doubt any anti-vaxxer parent has set out to risk their child’s life. Quite the opposite, in fact. There is a cascade of anti-vaxxer literature out there which often seems quite convincing. I believe it is the responsibility of those with a public voice to study the fact before making outrageous claims!!!

The idiotic words of president Trump as he aims to rub shoulders with the anti-vaccine community, can only be intentional ignorance without any regard for public safety:  “You take this little beautiful baby and you pump—I mean, it looks like just it’s meant for a horse and not for a child,” he said last year about the vaccine schedule. “We had so many instances, people that work for me, just the other day, 2 years old, a beautiful child, went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”  In August, Trump met with British researcher Andrew Wakefield, who concocted the vaccine-autism connection in 1998 and whose work has been widely discredited as fraudulent. Among those leading the charge against vaccines is Jenny McCarthy, the Playboy Bunny-turned-pseudoscience advocate. McCarthy began speaking out against vaccines in 2007, as she believed they caused her son’s autism. Based on her son’s symptoms, some believe the boy actually has Landau-Kleffner syndrome.

“Anti-vaccine beliefs track closely with lack of confidence in the government,” Arthur Allen, the author of Vaccine: The controversial story of medicine’s greatest lifesaver, told Politico’s Pulse Check podcast recently. “We’re in the middle of the perfect situation for [anti-vaccine beliefs] to rise.” This will only result in the needless pain, suffering and death.

Please click HERE to take a look at the worldwide spread of preventable, serious diseases caused by the anti-vaccination movement.

Vaccines are probably one of the most important medical discoveries in human history. I personally am unbelievably thankful to be provided with such an extensive method with which to protect my precious family!

In my next blog, I will use scientific proof to dispel commonly spread myths about vaccinations!

Thanks for reading!

Gestational Diabetes: DON’T PANIC!!!

As wonderful a time as pregnancy can be,  it may also be a an intensely frightening minefield ! When our health and by extension the health of our totally dependent, unborn babies are at risk it is terrifying!!! The predominant worry of most of the mothers I know is what gestational diabetes (GD) means for their fragile, little baba? With such a bewildering mess of information out there for concerned moms my aim is to add a bit of clarity to the subject! I’ve been there myself and let me tell you, its much less scary armed with a clear understanding of the facts!

During my first pregnancy, I totally mismanaged my mental health along with my anti-depressant medication, resulting in a severe episode of postnatal depression. I was adamant that I would not fall into the same trap the next time! As soon as I found out I was pregnant with number two, I signed myself with a wonderful psychiatrist specializing in pregnant patients! I was confident that I had my health under control. I went along to my diabetes-check appointment thinking it a mere formality, seeing as how I didn’t get it in my first pregnancy! …………. I was wrong!

WHAT IS GESTATIONAL DIABETES

Gestational diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher  then the expected range during pregnancy. It usually becomes apparent in the second or third trimester.

A certain amount of sugar in the blood is normal and serves a purpose! Carbohydrates are just long branches of sugar. Our bodies break them down into simple sugars (glucose) to be used as energy. When we have used as much glucose as we need for energy at a given time, the rest is removed from the blood by INSULIN! When insulin is either under-produced or stops working efficiently, blood sugar increases resulting in diabetes!

WHAT CAUSES GESTATIONAL DIABETES AND CAN I PREVENT IT?

Pregnancy hormones cause  a certain amount of insulin resistance. By slowing the removal of glucose from the blood, it is thought that a glucose supply to the fetus may be secured. In some women however, they become unable to compensate for the insulin resistance and blood glucose levels raise too high.

You cannot definitively prevent GD but you can certainly give yourself a fighting chance with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Please do not play the blame game! Motherhood creates an abundance of reasons for us mothers to feel an insurmountable torrent of guilt! Please don’t add this to the pile. Genetics and other factors are also in play… along with a dash of bad luck. Some women are free to lounge around and load up on chocolate and ice-cream (2 of my own personal addictions!) without ever getting the disease!!!

WHO IS AT RISK?

Its is possible for any pregnant woman to develop GD and studies have shown that 40-60% of patients have no demonstrative risk factor!!!!!

The main risk factors are:

  • Being overweight
  • Having polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Being over 35 years of age
  • Having had diabetes or a very large baby in a previous pregnancy
  • Being an ethnicity other then Caucasian
  •  Being a smoker (this actually DOUBLES your risk!!!)
  • There have been studies also even linking depression and anxiety to diabetes!!!

The symptoms of GD are often overlooked as most  are pregnancy “symptoms ” as well, but they are:

  • increased thirst
  •  increased urination
  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • Bladder infection
  • blurred vision
  • headache

 

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP CONTROL IT?

Don’t panic!  In most cases, eating a well balanced and healthy diet along with regular (moderate) exercise will do the trick! This is fantastic advice for everyone all of the time anyway!

There are a bunch of complicated menus and rules out there but try not to get bogged down… its mostly common sense. 

  • Cut out processed sugar of all kinds. 
  • Instead of white pasta, rice, crackers and bread -swap for wholegrain and brown. This slows down sugar entering the bloodstream.
  • Eat a portion of lean protein (eg. cheese, meat, beans, nuts) with every meal for the same reason.
  • Don’t start cutting calories below 2300-2500 as baby still need energy to grow.
  • Take it easy on fruit (especially dried fruit)… Fruit is a really healthy food but contains alot of suger. Definitely keep it in your d diet but just eat in moderation!
  • Take extra care in the morings as blood sugar tends to be naturally higher then. 2 scoops of porridge in water or 2 slices brown bread with an egg are an ideal breakfasts!!!
  • Quit smoking! 

As regards exercise, even working a moderate walk into you day makes a ginormous difference! Be careful though, not to overdo any particular form of exercise and get advice from a professional who can help you plan a routine, that coincides with your fitness level safely.

That is pretty much it!

A friend of mine made a few simple changes to her diet and even started baking her own delicious brown bread (shop bought bread can be full of sugar, along with all kinds of preservatives and the likes). She also  incorporated walking into her daily routine. She managed to keep control over her blood sugars without meds and was lighter shortly after her baby was born, then she was beforehand. That’s the dream right???

 

IF IT CAN’T BE CONTROLLED?

Don’t panic! It happens! And there is always a plan B!

No matter how hard I tried or how strict I was with my diet, my stubborn blood sugar levels would not come down! Mommy guilt kicked in and I was devastated. I was going to have to inject myself with needles! It all seemed so overwhelming and I felt like I had failed some how! This was of course a bunch of nonsense!!! For a load of reasons genetic and otherwise, this just happens and it is completely out of your control. The nurses in the hospital were so supportive and helped me every step of the way. The insulin injections are completely painless!!!!! The needles are so tiny and skinny you can barely feel a thing!

Yeah, its a bit inconvenient to go to extra hospital appointments and to remember to take insulin (or sometimes tablets), but its all in you and your child’s best interest and it is for such a short period of time!

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL RISKS TO MY BABY?

Don’t panic! Whether by diet or medication, if you keep your blood sugar under control there is minimal risk to your baby! 

Working closely with medical staff to get insulin/ medication levels stabilized is paramount! Consistently high and uncontrolled blood sugar, unfortunately, can lead to the baby growing to large which in turn increases the risk of having an instrumental delivery (e.g forceps) or cesarean section. Large babies born to these mothers are high risk for having low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and respiratory distress as lungs are often not able to mature properly and getting oxygen around its larger body is more difficult! With screening and proper care, this can usually be avoided though. And if these this occur, it at worst it usually means a little time in the ICU and a slightly longer stay in hospital!

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ME LONG TERM?

Don’t Panic!  As soon as you give birth, you are generally considered free of diabetes! 

A hospital check a few weeks later usually confirms this. Having had GD, statistically you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Again, if you are consistently within a healthy weight range, eat healthily and exercise regularly you give yourself the best chance of staying clear of it. Type 2 diabetes is usually linked with excessive weight gain and inactivity although genetic factors also play a role.

I am not a medical doctor and you should always follow professional advice of course. I merely hope to share my knowledge! This has largely been gained from my own experience and research. I Hope to give you some clarity,  thus alleviating some fears.

Thanks for reading,

Sara X

4 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT POSTNATAL DEPRESSION

1. WHAT IS POSTNATAL DEPRESSION?

First, I believe it is important to establish what is normal and what is not! I was absolutely terrified when I initially came home from hospital with my first baby. I was suddenly responsible for keeping a tiny, helpless human alive! Now, on my second child, I am far more accustomed to this idea, but now overwhelmed with trying to re-balance my life. I am blessed with a 3 year old and a 9 month baby, but now I am plagued with the guilt of having to share out my time and love between my two boys!

These kinds of feelings are completely NORMAL. Even feeling anxious, irritable or weepy are common symptoms of the “baby blues”! Between 40-80% of women experience this after giving birth.  It is not surprising considering the massive shift in hormones a woman has to deal with! “Baby blues” should not last more then a couple of weeks.  In my case however, things got progressively worse over time until my ability to cope or function was severely impaired.

The sooner the symptoms of postnatal depression (PND) are recognised and treated, the more likely it is to have a speedy recovery. In my mind,  I visualise depression as a sort of repugnant weed. The longer it is allowed to cultivate, the more expansive and tenacious its roots become. It can feel like an insurmountable and extremely painful challenge to eventually dig it out! My hope is, that via my posts someone might recognise PND in themselves or a loved one early enough to weed it out quickly, to perhaps even save a life.

Here’s a list of the main symptoms of PND:

  • feeling very low or sad and lacking energy
  • extreme guilt and self-loathing
  • an inability to take joy or pleasure from anything in your life (including your new baba which adds extra feelings of guilt!)
  • intense fears that you cannot care properly for your baby/ children
  • feeling that you are not bonding with your baby
  • changes in appetite
  • lowered sex drive
  • trouble sleeping
  • confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • irritability or apathy (“couldn’t be bothered”)
  • thoughts of suicide or self harm
  • feelings of guilt, hopelessness and self-blame
  • unsettling or scary thoughts –even thoughts of harming the infant (please note this is very rarely acted upon)

Be mindful that PND usually progresses slowly over time and may kick in any time in the year after giving birth. It may also begin during pregnancy!

A rare but extremely dangerous form of PND is called postnatal psychosis.

POSTNATAL PHSYCHOSIS: This is a very rare and very extreme form of PND. It usually becomes apparent very quickly in the first couple of weeks, but sometimes later on. The symptoms are very like that of bi-polar disorder and but is considered a medical emergency as the mother often rapidly deteriorates .  These are the most common symptoms:

  • sudden thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true
  • hallucinations (visual and /or audio)
  • a manic “high” mood – talking and thinking too much or too quickly
  • confusion
  • a “low” mood – showing signs of depression sudden being withdrawn or tearful, lacking energy, having a loss of appetite, anxiety
  • trouble sleeping
  • loss of inhibitions
  • severe paranoia

Postnatal psychosis is classed as a medical emergency! If you or someone you know has some of these symptoms (not necessarily all of them) it is important to contact a medical professional immediately!

Unfortunately, there are many desperately sad stories of mothers not being diagnosed in time. I read in the Belfast Telegraph about a woman from Northern Ireland who smothered her baby. She was treated for postnatal depression on her first child and completely recovered. On her second, she deteriorated dramatically. In court, he barrister said,  “She felt she couldn’t go on any longer. The only way was to finish it. It was automatic that (her son) had to die too.” This thought process, that she would kill herself and take her son along with her  is a theme that comes up repeatedly. In the mothers warped state of mind she does not want to leave her baby behind.

2. WHO CAN GET PND?

Anyone…. Even Men!

10%-15% of women are known to suffer from some form of PND, but due to the stigma associated with the disease those figures are probably significantly higher. Those with an increased risk would included women with a history of mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder. Women who have suffered a severe episode of illness after a past delivery were found to be particularly at risk.

PND IN MEN:

Before you roll your eyes, like I did as  vague memories of “man flu” and the likes came to mind, please hear me out!  Obviously it is also completely life altering it is to become a father. Our rolls and difficulties as men and women may differ, but at the core, our feelings are the same. Sleep depravation has actually been shown to alter hormones and neurochemicals in the brains of some men, contributing to depression.  Younger men (especially those struggling financially) and those with a history of depression were found to be high risk with partners of women with PND twice as likely to develop it.

  • 3. ARE ANTIDEPRESSANTS OK DURING PREGNANCY?

PND can start during pregnancy, in which case it is called prenatal depression. In my previous blog I described how during my first pregnancy my doctor drastically reduced my antidepressant meds, resulting finally in a total breakdown!

As soon as I became pregnant with number 2 , I signed to see an antenatal psychiatrist. He was FANTASTIC and took the time to discuss the risks and necessities of meds during pregnancy. His main points were as follows:

  1. You wouldn’t stop taking epilepsy medication while pregnant as it would have detrimental consequences. Depression is also a very serious condition and therefore if there is very little or limited risk of harm to the unborn baby, the medication should not me tampered with.
  2. There is growing evidence to suggest that poorly treated mood disorders can actually have severe consequences to the unborn baby’s emotional and cognitive development!
  3. Although there is evidence that some medications may be detrimental, there are a vast number of them which have never been shown to be harmful.
  4. As with any medical treatment, the benefits must outweigh the risks in order t0 proceed.

A NOTE ON BREASTFEEDING: Again, there may be risks associated with certain medications, but for many there has been no evidence that the meds have ever caused harm.

4. WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?

Depending on the severity of the case, medication may be extremely useful. Often, this may only have to be used short term until you are better.

Psychotherapy is almost always extremely useful, especially the likes of cognitive behavioural therapy which I found to be instrumental in my recovery. In brief, it helped me to identify harmful thought processes and replace them with a more realistic and optimistic mind-set. I also found grounding meditation to be wonderful!

Exercise, good nutrition and sufficient sleep are unbelievably important, however, as I’m well aware, often almost impossible for a new mom to obtain.

Support is critical! Family, friends, church members, mother and baby groups, online support groups, mommy blog communities…… There are so many people in the same boat. We need to all support each other!

Thanks for reading,

Sara X

 

 

Postnatal Depression is Not A Life Sentence!

I, like most expectant mothers I suppose, imagined my future as a content and perfect mommy. Bathed in sunlight, I would sit in a rocking chair by the window, cradling my little one and basking in the utter elation of motherhood. Then, one day I woke up to my crying baby and panic gripped my heart. I desperately wanted to go back to sleep…. To stay asleep.

As I sit here recalling old feelings and memories, I can barely see the screen for the tears filling my eyes. I am struggling to find the words which can explain the hopeless desperation that is postnatal depression. As painful as it is to talk about however, I think it is so important to put it out there… to connect with other mothers and to maybe attempt to articulate for family members and friends the cruel nature of this disease. There are some wonderful pioneer mothers out there who have been bravely sharing their stories and bringing perinatal depression and anxiety to light.. Despite this unfortunately, the sigma of mental illness is still very much alive and suffocating mothers who would benefit more from kindness, support and help! I am by no means a medical professional or psychologist, but I would like tell my story and share my uncomfortably intimate knowledge of this loathsome illness!

OK, here I go…

I am a multiple suicide survivor. That sentence once made me feel like an immense failure. Thankfully, I now feel tremendously lucky and although I still struggle I can find a way through and have even learned to cherish my short existence.

I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. It has been my constant companion….. always bubbling just below the surface ready to pull me under at the first sign of weakness. Despite several  unwanted side-effects, medication is critical to my functionality. My first pregnancy was easy enough compared to my second (a blog for another day!!!)…My GP advised me to drop to a dangerously low level of medication. I blindly followed his instruction, much to my own detriment. I found out later that my medication has never been found to be dangerous to an unborn baby. My psychiatrist explained to me that in worrisome cases, the most up to date medical recommendation is NOT TO adjust the dose… (other then a tapir in the final week of gestation to prevent any slight ‘dependence’). Obviously you can never be too careful , but my as my doctor pointed out, it is so much more detrimental for baby to be born to a mother who is mentally incapable of functioning. There is also growing evidence to suggest that poorly treated mood disorders can actually have severe consequences to the unborn baby’s emotional and cognitive development!

In retrospect, I think I started to fall apart before the birth. I started pulling away from friends and family to spend increasing amounts of time alone. The big day came… After 28.5 hours in labour, my beautiful baby boy was placed in my arms. I was in a sort of state of shock and could barely wrap my head around the fact that I had created a little human. Hospital was a pleasant blur. There was a certain comfort in the daily routine and reassurance of having the constant support of hospital staff (I really CANNOT express enough how incredibly phenomenal the midwives and all of the hospital staff were!!!). When I got home from hospital reality began to set in. I was scared to go outside in case “the fumes” harmed my baby and became obsessed with the idea that something awful might happen to him. I rarely slept at all in the beginning. I remember nights of ever worsening, racing thoughts. I never mentioned to anyone how I was feeling. I felt tremendously guilty for how I felt! I mean,  I had this beautiful,  baby, a lovely husband, a roof over our heads and food in the fridge. I should have been ecstatic and grateful, but really, I was coming apart at the seams.

At the time, I was nursing my baby “on demand” (meaning any time he was hungry). Incidentally, he was very demanding! It is difficult to describe the all encompassing fear that my baby’s cry sparked in me. I was afraid to put him down and took little if any care of my own health or appearance. I was so adamant to ignore my feelings that I refused to acknowledge mastitis, which unchecked became an unbearably painful cluster of abscesses. Delirious with fever, I was forced back to hospital for 5 days with suspected septicaemia. Needless to say, I felt like a complete failure. I stopped nursing and cried my eyes out the first time I fed my son formula because I felt somehow inadequate as a mother. I was utterly devastated! I think a lot of us moms are put under tremendous pressure to breastfeed and little if anything is taught about formula feeding in antenatal classes because it is just not advocated! I know many mothers who have suffered through so much guilt because nursing has not worked for them for a wide variety of reasons!

Things only went from bad to worse. I would wake up in the morning and this sort of fear would grip me physically and mentally. My heart would be pounding, pumping stress hormones through my body but it was unbearably difficult to do the most menial of tasks. I would just struggle through until I could go back to bed again, which if possible, I  did at 5:30pm as soon as my hubby came home from work. I was totally repulsed by food and lost a drastic amount of weight. One friend told me I looked “ridiculous” in my now loose fitting jeans. I laughed it off, but it just painfully echoed to me how utterly alone I was and how no one who understood how desperately ill I’d become.

I felt so ungrateful and guilty for not being happy. I wished I could be a better wife and mother. With the shame of failure weighing me down, I finally crumbled. I called my husband in work and told him I could no longer cope. He was home within half an hour and thankfully was allowed to take some time off work. I sought the help I so desperately needed. It was a painstaking journey through a sea of side affects to find the right balance of medication. With that and with the guidance and support of a fantastic psychologist I began to recover. I remember waking one morning and not feeling the panic…not wanting to go back to sleep. Slowly but surely I became something of myself again!

If you are reading this and are effected by postnatal depression , please believe me when I tell you that IT WILL GET BETTER! With the right individual treatment and support there is always help and a way out that hell!!!

In my next blog, I will go into what I have learned from the current literature about pre/postnatal depression and anxiety. I’ll talk a little about who is at risk and why. I’ll discuss different treatment options that I am aware of. I’ll share some personal insights into what I and some others have found to be helpful.

Thank you for reading! Sara X