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Feeling Depleted

By Drs. Rick and Jan Hanson

As a result of all these factors, scientific studies have found that motherhood (and an increasing number of children) raises a woman's risks for:

  • Thyroid disease

  • Autoimmune conditions

  • Type II diabetes

  • Depression

  • Gallbladder and kidney disease

  • Nutritional deficits

  • Intensified PMS

  • Fatigue

  • Some kinds of cancer

  • A shortened lifespan

This is a sobering list of health problems! To be sure: Motherhood is NOT itself a medical issue. But its physical and psychological consequences often impact a woman's mental and physical health, and her marriage - leading to billions of dollars in health care expenses and lost productivity in the country as a whole. Even just everyday experiences of feeling frazzled, weary, irritable, overwhelmed, blue, or let down wear on a mother's well-being and cast a dark cloud over a time that should be so wonderful.

If fatherhood exposed men to similar risks, there'd be a national outcry. But since these involve "just" women, they are taken for granted.

Our society glorifies the wonderful side of motherhood, but it doesn't want to look at the challenges. For example, new moms fall off the radar of the health care system a couple months postpartum - as if bearing and rearing children made no long-term difference. Articles in popular magazines for mothers rarely go beyond chirpy proclamations that all problems can be solved with stuff like low-fat casseroles or clever tricks with a screaming baby. And compared to other Western, industrial nations, America ranks dead last in family leave and other family-friendly policies.

This blind spot - or worse, denial - in our national consciousness makes many moms think that feeling run down must be their own fault in some way. Consequently, they delay (or never do...) the self-care, thorough check-ups, or firmly speaking up for themselves with their partner that would reverse the downward slide of depletion.

It's a pity, since there are so many research-proven ways to lower stress, replenish your body, heal the health problems common among mothers, get more help from your mate, and nurture a lasting and loving marriage after children. They're summarized in our book, Mother Nurture (endorsed by Christiane Northrup, MD, and other experts on women's health), and we'll also be exploring this territory in future columns.

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Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen

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