Mindfulness in Therapy

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that was developed in the ancient Buddhist tradition and continues to be practiced today.  Itmeditation1 involves obtaining a calm and conscious awareness of one’s body functions and feelings.  Currently, many therapists are incorporating this practice of mindfulness meditation with cognitive behavioral therapy to form a treatment for a variety of mental and physical conditions including substance use disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and pain.  Some of the mindfulness-based therapy techniques currently in use include Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR).  Many books, DVDs, and Internet websites are available for any person interested in learning about this practice.  In addition there are many studies available for review that reveal the many uses and benefits of mindfulness meditation techniques, demonstrating this is evidence-based therapy we can incorporate with confidence for a variety of therapeutic needs.

Additional value in mindfulness meditation is that it is a non-drug treatment.  For those battling drug addictions, drug treatments may not be an option to treat co-occurring PTSD and pain.  Drug dependence theories posit that drug dependence is a disease state, in which physical dependency on the substance eventually leads to the compulsive and repetitive use of the substance despite the negative consequences to the user’s health, mental state, or social life (Shen, Orson, & Kosten, 2012).   This drug dependence is often a result of prescription drugs.  Research has revealed that individuals prescribed opioid drugs, used for the treatment of chronic pain, had a significantly higher rate of misuse than those with a history of drug abuse who were not prescribed opioids (Pohl & Smith, 2012).   This has become a serious problem in the United States with the overuse, abuse, and addiction to opioid medications.  Opioid dependence is considered to be a lifelong, chronic, and relapsing disorder for the individual (Shen, Orson, & Kosten, 2012).  Therefore, in patients who have a history of addiction or other risk factors for developing addiction, opioids should be prescribed with consideration of their tendency.  The need to explore alternatives is obvious.  Mindfulness techniques that address even complex co-occurring disorders such as substance use disorder with PTSD and pain are worthy of exploration.  At dohi Center for Well-being we utilize mindfulness techniques in counseling as well as teach Mindfulness Meditation to the clients we see, and we are very pleased with the results.

References:

Pohl, M., & Smith, L. (2012). Chronic pain and addiction: challenging co-occurring disorders. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs44(2), 119-124. doi:10.1080/02791072.2012.684621

Shen, X., Orson, F., & Kosten, T. (2012). Vaccines against drug abuse. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics91(1), 60-70. doi:10.1038/clpt.2011.281

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Workplace Health Program

An effective workplace health program can help in promoting to workers healthy behaviors to avoid disease as well as help those already affected by disease to improve or delay disease progression.  While the evidence demonstrates good workplace health programs are beneficial, some employers choose not to invest in them or to cut funding for programs they have in place because they do not believe they can effectively reduce disease risks for their employees (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).  To ensure the program is effective it should have five key elements, which include health education; related employee services links; a physical and social environment that accommodates health improvement; health promotion is part of the organization’s culture; and employee screenings that include adequate treatment and follow up (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).  While the program is geared toward healthy individuals, everyone at the workplace is able to benefit.

Those that benefit from the workplace health programs mainly include individuals that are generally healthy (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).  An effective program is geared toward providing opportunity to those individuals who are not maintaining good health and who are at risk for acquiring preventable diseases.  These individuals benefit from a health promotion program that includes encouragement of fitness and exercise, eating a healthy diet, managing weight, managing stress, controlling the use of alcohol, and practicing safe sexual behaviors (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).

Individuals that are at high risk due to lifestyle behaviors will also find benefit in a workplace health promotion program.  These individuals may be smokers, are sedentary, have an unhealthy diet, have unsafe sexual behaviors, consume alcohol, or experience excessive stress (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).  They may also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, or excessive weight.  Individuals with these risk factors benefit from a workplace health promotion program that includes hypertension screening and management programs, support for smoking cessation, and classes for weight loss (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).

Individuals already affected by ailments such as asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, musculoskeletal related disorders, and depression, can benefit from a program in their workplace (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).  The goal for these individuals is to improve the condition or to delay the progression of disease, through promotion of better compliance with their treatments, and changes in behaviors that reduce the risk for their disease.

Overall a workplace health promotion program is beneficial to everyone at the workplace.  An effective program can help reduce risk factors for disease in healthy individuals, while helping those change lifestyle behaviors that need to improve their state of health or delay the progression of disease they may already have.  The health programs are offered to individuals at the location they spend much of their time at, the workplace, which helps to improve compliance.  For the employer that invests in them, an effective health program is able to yield acceptable financial returns as well.

 

References

Brannon, L. & Feist, J., (2010).  Health psychology. (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Goetzel, R. Z. & Ozminkowski, R. J. (2008). The health and cost benefits of work site health-promotion programs. The Annual Review of Public Health, 29, 303–323, doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.29.020907.090930.

 

Why Health Psychology?

Since 2002 I have been in practice as a Traditional Naturopathic Doctor.  I earned my degree from Trinity School of Natural Health who have been providing professional programs of study in Natural Health since 1991.  My education also included business management and dietetics.  Why did I continue my education in Health Psychology?  I have always  felt especially drawn to true mind-body medicine.  Naturopathy somewhat includes the psychological aspects of health but does not delve to the depths I wanted to go in learning the mental/emotional/behavioral, psychological, aspects in why people become physically ill and do not get better. Chronic illness.  Chronic pain.  Chronic blood sugar issues.  Chronic heart issues.  A chronic illness is something an individual is not overcoming.  They may be managing it somewhat but are not truly healing.

My graduate studies in Health Psychology provided me insight and expertise which I utilize to guide my clients through life changing efforts in improving their health and well-being, and taking necessary steps for addressing chronic health concerns.  In Health Psychology we explore the interactions between the body and the mind.  We examine how stress and nutrition influence your physical and psychological health and well-being.  We work to help you work through issues such as eating disorders, substance use disorders, as well as problems you may have in meeting your health improvement goals.  In Health Psychology we also explore alternative medical approaches, which is a perfect compliment to my Naturopathic training, allowing me to help you create harmony and balance in your life.  Why Health Psychology?  The answer is obvious.  Your success is my success.  My extra schooling was worth it 🙂

Charlotte Test

Can herbs help addiction? (part 1)

Alcohol

An estimated 17.6 million American adults (8.5 percent) meet standard diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder according to results from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) reported in the current Archives of General Psychiatry [Volume 61, August 2004: 807-816].

Conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, the NESARC is a representative survey of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population aged 18 years and older. With more than 43,000 adult Americans participating, the NESARC is the largest study ever conducted of the co-occurrence of psychiatric disorders among U.S. adults.

Alcoholism is a serious issue that not only impacts the well-being of the sufferer but also each and every family member, friends, employers, all persons that interact with this person.

Aside from interventions and counseling that should be provided to help a person overcome their addiction, herbs show promise and can be very effectively utilized:

A Combination of Kudzu and St. John’s Wort

This is a formula that was originally combined to help alcoholics overcome the stress of their addiction.  It does have other uses that include cooling inflammation in the gut and helping leaky gut syndrome.  It can be used for neck pain, mild depression, anxiety, and headaches. (source: Tree of Lite Publishing)

Kudzu: In Traditional Chinese Medicine, kudzu root is used in prescriptions for the treatment of wei, or “superficial,” syndrome (a disease that manifests just under the surface—mild, but with fever), thirst, headache, and stiff neck with pain due to high blood pressure. It is also recommended for allergies, migraine headaches, and diarrhea. The historical application for hangover and alcohol craving has become a major focal point of modern research on kudzu. There is evidence that links diadzin, a constituent of Kudzu, to the potential reduction in alcohol consumption.  A person who takes kudzu, may still drink alcohol, however, they will consume less than if they had not taken kudzu.   Kudzu is also used in modern Chinese medicine as a treatment for angina pectoris.  Its leaves are high in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and protein.

Common Names: Ge Gen (Mandarin), Kakkon (Japanese), Kalgun (Korean), Japanese Arrowroot, Pueraria Root.

Common Uses: Antioxidant; alcohol cravings; allergies; angina,; soothing digestive aid; diarrhea; headaches and migraines; fever; muscular tension; minor aches & pain; blood pressure support; culinary food starch thickener (powder).

St. John’s Wort: Long before the standardized extract of St. John’s Wort became popular, the whole herb has been used in traditional herbal medicine for more than 2,000 years as a potent anti-viral, calming and pain relieving herb.  The compound Hypericin was isolated in St. John’s Wort in 1942 and has been used as an antidepressant.  The whole herb is primarily used to help rebuild and repair nerve damage, relieve pain, remove phlegm from chest and lung area, reduce inflammation, and can be applied topically for scrapes, burns & pain.

Common use: Sedative; pain; viral infections; colds; chest & lung congestion; menstrual cramps; sciatica; arthritis; gout; diuretic.

Kudzu/St. John’s Wort Combination [Nervous] stock number 975-6

diadzin is a constituent of Kudzu that evidence shows is linked to the potential reduction in alcohol consumption.

“Isoflavone compounds naturally occurring in the root of the kudzu plant have been used historically to treat alcohol-related problems” (Penetar et al., 2012).  A pilot study by researchers Penetar et al. (2012) was conducted to assess the effects of one primary isoflavone – puerarin- for its ability to modify alcohol intake in humans. This study is the first to demonstrate that a single isoflavone found in the kudzu root can alter alcohol drinking in humans.

hypericin is the compound in St. John’s Wort which has been shown to reduce stress and depression.

Each capsule of Kudzu/St. John’s Wort Combination contains 1 mg of daidzin and 1 mg hypericin.

NOTE: While taking this product, avoid exposure to strong sunshine and tanning rays (tanning salons). Consult your health care provider before using this product if you are taking prescription anti-depressive drugs, including selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, as well as any MAO inhibitors.

Reference:  Penetar, D. M., Toto, L. H., Farmer, S. L., Lee, D. Y. W., Ma, Z., Liu, Y., & Lukas, S. E. (2012). The isoflavone puerarin reduces alcohol intake in heavy drinkers: A pilot study. Drug and alcohol dependence126(1), 251-256.

To order Kudzu/St. John’s Wort Combination, please visit www.mynsp.com/herbalhour
The item number is 975-6.

Or visit CLICK HERE for a direct link to the product.

We also have both Kudzu and St. John’s Wort in loose herb tea available for purchase online or at The Herb Peddler located in dohi Center for Well-being.

The information on herbs and supplements has not been evaluated by the FDA.  Information on herbs and supplements provided on this site is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure disease. We are not responsible for the results of your decisions in using this information, including, but not limited to, your choosing to seek or not to seek professional medical care, or from choosing or not choosing specific treatment based on the information.
If you have any medical health care questions, please consult a professional medical provider.  If you need treatment, please see a licensed provider.

Peace and good health,

Charlotte Test, ND, MH, BAPSY

– See more at: http://theherbpeddler.com/herbalhour

 

Mindfulness Meditation – An Effort in Grounding

Mindfulness Meditation.  It seems everyone is talking about it.  Having graced the front cover of Time Magazine at least twice in the past eleven or so years, as well as being added to the tool box of many therapists around the world, meditation is becoming recognized as a powerful healing modality for many problems that ail us.  Are all forms of meditation the same?  What exactly is this Mindfulness Meditation that everyone is talking about?

Mindfulness Meditation is a practice that was developed in the ancient Buddhist tradition and continues to be practiced today as are other types of meditation originating in this philosophy and others.  However the various forms of meditation differ in regards to the level of consciousness the practitioner is attempting to achieve.  Mindfulness Meditation involves obtaining a calm and conscious awareness of one’s body functions and feelings.  The key phrase here is conscious awareness.  When practicing Mindfulness Meditation you are not attempting to reach the subconscious mind but rather the conscious mind.  The emphasis in Mindfulness Meditation is to bring about non-judgmental self-awareness.

A Holistic Modality

Mindfulness Meditation has been used effectively to overcome a variety of psychological and physical problems.  Even with the first meditation session, people experience reduction in stress.  Many research studies demonstrate over again how effective Mindfulness Meditation is in helping people overcome depression.  It not only helps with currently occurring minor depression, but also in preventing depression relapse.  The results of Mindfulness Meditation training continues to provide a person suffering from depression with skills in mindfulness that they can use any time they feel their lack of awareness or attention is leading to a stream of thoughts of worries or distracting contemplation.

Mindfulness Meditation has also been used to help people who suffer from lower back pain and other physical health problems including cancer.  Implementing Mindfulness Meditation into a person’s health and wellness program may help with improvement in pain acceptance and also with physical function.

Currently, many therapists are incorporating the practice of Mindfulness Meditation with cognitive behavioral therapy to form a treatment for a variety of mental and physical conditions including major depression and depression relapse.  Some of these mindfulness-based therapy techniques currently in use include Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

There are many books, DVDs, and Internet websites available for any person interested in learning about practice in Mindfulness Meditation.  Learning in a class with others has it’s advantages in social support.  However you learn Mindfulness Meditation the key is in daily practice.  Even just 10 to 20 minutes a day will help you get grounded in the present and develop sound conscious awareness.

For more information on the health benefits of Mindfulness Meditation please contact me, Charlotte Test.  Over the past several years I have done a lot of research on this practice in regards to help for addictions, depression including postpartum depression, and stress.  I have written articles on these topics and I also utilize Mindfulness Meditation in health benefits for my clients as well as myself.

Charlotte Test

Motivation, SMART Goals, and Vision

The following is an article I had written on “motivation, SMART goals, and vision”.

Motivation, SMART Goals, and Vision

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world!” – Joel Barker

            Many people face challenges each day dealing with the consequences of behaviors that are counterproductive to having a happy and healthy life.  Behaviors become habits that interfere with living the life they would like to live, in health, companionship, and prosperity may have become.  What stands between them and the life they would like to live?  Common barriers are the lack of having clear vision; the establishment of SMART goals; and motivation to move forward in the process of achieving goals.  Through effective coaching, these common barriers become the solution!

Vision

What is your vision?

            Good plans include a vision for what the desired result of the plan will be.  Whether the client is a corporation developing their mission and goals, or an individual seeking to make changes in lifestyle to benefit health and well-being, a vision is developed for how effort in achieving goals will pay off in the future.  One of first jobs of the coach is to help clients create a concise and compelling vision of what they desire of their future self (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2010).  Vision provides the foundation on which to build plans and fuels the energy needed to move forward in implementing plans.  Creating a compelling vision opens the door for clients to self-efficiency and self-esteem (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2010).

A vision clearly defines what the client wants.  The vision that the client develops provides a discrepancy between the ideal situation they truly want and the current situation, and so provides motivation for proactive action (Parker, Bindl, & Strauss, 2010).  It is essential to include key components that make up an effective vision.  Concise, clear visions that are also future-oriented, stable yet challenging, abstract, and inspiring are apt to result in better performance (Kantabutra & Avery, 2010).  Once a personalized description of the vision is established that excites the client, coaching can begin with discovering the essential components of the vision that are meaningful to the client (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2010).

Wellness Vision chart

            With an established vision, motivation is generated from its importance and meaning to the client.  This motivation, generated from within helps to propel the client into action.  The client’s motivation becomes a driving source of energy to fuel work that takes place, guided by a plan, in achieving goals.

“Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes.”  – Benjamin Franklin

What motivates you?

Motivation

            Motivation is important for taking the next step in setting goals.  Coaching helps clients to identify with reasons that will provide strong motivators to work toward goals (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2010).  Motivation should be personal in nature to help propel the client into action in achieving goals with a plan in place.  Research reveals that autonomous motivation influences the progress of goals with the implementation of planning (Koestner, Otis, Powers, Pelletier, & Gagnon, 2008).  In addition motivation only works with a plan that includes behavioral goals (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2010).

What is a goal?

            People understand what goals are in different ways, either as outcomes or behaviors.  Some people see goals as ultimate objects in terms of values or emotions, such as more peace and relaxation, or less stress and anxiety (Jinks & Dexter, 2012).  These types of goals are outcomes.  Other outcome goals include controlling cholesterol levels or losing weight.  Outcome goals are valuable in creating vision statements (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2010).  Behavior goals describe how the client will achieve an outcome, such as the goal of exercising to lose weight or eating healthy to control cholesterol.  Developing behavior goals are essential to helping clients change behaviors (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2010).

 “Goals are dreams we convert to plans and take action to fulfill.” – Zig Ziglar

 

But are your Goals SMART?

             Effective behavioral goals are SMART goals.  SMART goals fit the criteria of being specific, measurable, action-based, realistic, and time-lined (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2010).  The following chart describes each of these criteria.

SMART

            Coaching with SMART Goals

Specific:   The first step is helping the client make specific behavior goals.  This is practical and helps distinguishing effort from results.  Having specific goals to work with helps improve the effort and helps avoid wasting valuable time (MacLeod, 2012).

Measurable:  As the saying goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”  Goals should be quantified so that increments of accomplishment can be measured.  Measurement is a factor of accountability (MacLeod, 2012).

Action-based:  Behavioral goals are action-based goals.  They should have intrinsic value to the client.  They are part of an incremental process in goal achievement (Grant, 2012).

Realistic:  Goals need to be realistic and achievable.  Small wins build self-efficacy and self-esteem (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2010).  If goals are too difficult the client may lose interest and focus.  In addition people tend to focus on what that they find interesting and enjoyable (MacLeod, 2012).

Time-lined:  Accomplishing goals as soon as possible is not an acceptable timeframe (MacLeod, 2012).  Quick-wins keep motivation going for working on goals.  Goals should occur along a time-line such as weekly goals and 3-month goals (Moore & Tschannen-Moran, 2010).

Applying the SMART Goals theory in coaching helps clients set goals that they will feel motivated and able to accomplish.

Conclusion

            Coaching is an effective tool for those individuals seeking help with challenges in life.  Clients seek the help of a trained coach to make changes in the behaviors that interfere with the achievement of happiness, health, good relationships, wealth, and other goals.  What may be more difficult to accomplish on their own can be accomplished with assistance from a coach.  By helping clients in motivation, establishing their vision, and developing SMART goals, coaching effectively helps clients turn common barriers of lacking vision, goals, and motivation into a framework for the change they desire.

References

Grant, A. M. (2012). An integrated model of goal-focused coaching: An evidence-based framework for teaching and practice. International Coaching Psychology Review7(2), 146-165.

Jinks, D., & Dexter, J. (2012). What do you Really Want: an Examination of the Pursuit of Goal Setting in Coaching. International Journal Of Evidence Based Coaching & Mentoring10(2), 100-110.

Kantabutra, S., & Avery, G. C. (2010). The power of vision: statements that resonate. Journal of Business Strategy31(1), 37-45.

Koestner, R., Otis, N., Powers, T. A., Pelletier, L., & Gagnon, H. (2008). Autonomous motivation, controlled motivation, and goal progress. Journal of Personality76(5), 1201-1230.

MacLeod, L. (2012). Making SMART Goals Smarter. Physician Executive38(2), 68-72.

Moore, M. & Tschannen-Moran, B. (2010).  Coaching psychology manual.  Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Parker, S. K., Bindl, U. K., & Strauss, K. (2010). Making things happen: A model of proactive motivation. Journal of Management36(4), 827-856.

Preconception Care Coaching ~ Helping You Make Healthy Babies

Creating a healthy baby first involves creating health in the parents. I wrote this article in 2010 to discuss the importance of Preconception Care. Are you interested in starting a family? Contact me first to help you with Preconception Care Coaching.  Charlotte Test

Preconception Care ~ Making Healthy Babies

Creating a healthy baby first involves creating health in the parents. Implementing good health practices before pregnancy occurs, as in preconception care, can help avoid fertility problems, problems in pregnancy and birth, and problems in the health of mom and the baby. Good preconception care focuses on protection for conditions and risk factors that could affect a woman when she becomes pregnant and by focusing on factors that can affect a developing fetus or infant.Such factors may include taking prescription drugs or drinking alcohol. The key to promoting preconception health is to combine the best medical care, healthy behaviors, strong support, and safe environments at home and at work (CDC, n.d.).

After pregnancy occurs prenatal care begins to continue with prevention of problems that can occur with the developing baby. It also may involve genetic counseling related to birth defects. This is also the time to prepare for when baby arrives (CDC, n.d.).

According to the Center for Disease Control, while there has been many advances in medicine and prenatal care in recent years, compared to any other developed country, birth outcomes are worse in the United States. Often U.S. babies are born prematurely or have a low weight birth. These problems are even escalating in some groups of people (CDC, n.d.).

To help address this problem, good preconception care is recommended. What is preconception care? The goal of preconception care is to improve the health of the mother before pregnancy occurs in order to reduce risks of mother and/or the child during pregnancy and beyond birth. Preconception care also involves health and lifestyle of the father (CDC, n.d.).

It is suggested to implement “5 Steps to get ready for a healthy pregnancy” (CDC, n.d.).

These include:

  1. Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of Folic Acid every day for at least 1 month before getting pregnant (CDC, n.d.).
    1. Folic acid supplements are taken to prevent neural tube defects (CDC, n.d.).
    2. An appropriate amount of folic acid can also help prevent cleft lip and congenital heart disease. Since these birth defects often happen before most women know they are pregnant (MyPyramid.gov, 2008), folic acid supplementation is beneficial as part of a preconception plan.
  2. Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol (CDC, n.d.).
    1. Smoking is linked to premature birth and low birth weight. It is also linked to children having higher range of physical and cognitive disabilities (Crandell, Haines Crandell, & Vander Zanden, 2009). Quit before getting pregnant to avoid these risks.
    2. Drinking alcohol causes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which is the most common cause of mental retardation. This is very preventable (Crandell et al., 2009). The benefits of avoiding alcohol by far out way the risks.
  3. If you have a medical condition, be sure it is under control and being treated properly (CDC, n.d.).
  4. Take any needed medications appropriately under the advisement of a health care professional (CDC, n.d.).
    1. Since medications taken during pregnancy account for 1 to 3 percent of birth defects (Crandell et al., 2009) it is a good idea to avoid taking drugs unless they are necessary for a serious health condition (Crandell et al., 2009).
  5. Avoid contact with toxic substances, poisons, harmful chemicals, and cat or rodent feces (CDC, n.d.).
    1. Avoid marijuana; oral contraceptives; caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola drinks; cocaine and other hard drugs; and avoid exposure to toxins in the workplace (Crandell et al., 2009).
    2. It’s also advisable for men to be aware of chemicals in the work environment that can be carried in the semen and can cause infertility in the man, lead to miscarriage (spontaneous abortion), and congenital malformations (Crandell et al., 2009).

Put into place your Preconception Plan ahead of time! Create a reproductive life plan and stick to it. This consists of personal goals set for family planning (CDC, n.d.).

A reproductive plan is not only beneficial for women but for men as well. A family health history of both can be addressed at this time.

Families share their genes, their environment, lifestyles and habits. Taking a look at family history helps identify a possible increased risk for disease. Health history reflects for both, a person’s genes and these other shared risk factors (CDC, n.d.). This helps with understanding genetic risks (CDC, n.n.). Some people have concerns of passing along genetic diseases to their children. This includes Down Syndrome, which occurs in 1 out of every 800 live births in the U.S. (Crandell et al., 2009). People of African descent may pass to their children sickle-cell anemia. Tay-Sachs disease is a genetic defect in Ashkenazic Jews (Crandell et al., 2009). Decisions can be made at this time whether or not genetic counseling would prove beneficial.

One of the 5 steps to preconception health involves addressing health conditions prior to pregnancy. Some diseases, both infectious and noninfectious, can have a teratogenic effect. This means there is a risk that the disease in the mother can cause birth defects or death in the baby.

Some diseases in mom that can lead to birth defects in baby are (Crandell et al., 2009):

  •  Rubella – miscarriage, cardiac abnormalities, deafness, blindness, mental or physical retardation
  •  Chlamydia – conjunctivitis or blindness, pneumonia
  •  Trichomoniasis – premature birth or low birth weight
  •  Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – premature birth or low birth weight
  •  Syphilis – brain and spinal cord damage, death
  •  Genital herpes – sores around the mouth, central nervous system damage, miscarriage, death of infant
  •  Gonorrhea – conjunctivitis or blindness, pneumonia
  •  HIV – bacterial infections, cancer, swollen lymphs, failure to thrive, neurological damage, developmental delays, death
  • Diabetes Mellitus (type 1) – congenital malformations, neurological defect, respiratory distress, miscarriage, still born
  • Diabetes Mellitus (type 2) – fetal obesity, complications with labor and birth, neural tube defects, respiratory distress, miscarriage, still born

(Crandell et al., 2009)

Other health issues that can lead to birth defects should be address at this time. These include hypothyroidism, Hepatitis B, PKU, hypertension, blood diseases, eating disorders (CDC, n.d.).

During this time, men should be screened and treated, if necessary, for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) to help avoid passing infections to female partners. Men can also improve their own reproductive health. They can work on reducing stress, eating a healthy diet, getting any medication issues addressed, avoiding excessive alcohol use, and avoiding smoking. It is important for men who do smoke to avoid smoking around their partners. This helps her to avoid the harmful effects of second-hand smoke (CDC, n.d.).

Expecting parents hope the baby they bring into the world is healthy, and that he or she grows into being a healthy and happy child. Fortunately having a healthy child is not only something to hope for, but something parents-to-be can take a proactive approach to make happen. Good preconception and prenatal care go a long way to creating a healthy baby!

See our Before, During, and After Pregnancy Page for herbal supports!

References:

Bodnar, L.M., Catov, J.M., Simhan, H.N., Holick, M.F., Powers, R.W., and Roberts, J.M. (2007). Maternal vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of preeclampsia.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism, 92. 3517-3522.

CDC – Pregnancy, Before You Get Pregnant – NCBDDD. (n.d.). . Retrieved November 21, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/pregnancy_gateway/before.html

Colagar, A.H., Marzony, E.T., & Chaichi, M.J. (2009). Zinc levels in seminal plasma are associated with sperm quality in fertile and infertile men, Nutrition Research29(2), 82-88. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2008.11.007.

Crandell, T.L., Haines Crandell, C., & Vander Zanden, J.W. (2009). Human Development. (9th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Freeman, M.P., Hibbeln, J.R., Wisner, K.L., Davis, J.M., Mischoulon, D., Peet, M., Keck Jr., P.E., Marangell, L.B., Richardson, A.J., Lake, J., & Stoll, A.L. (2006). Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67(12). 1954-1967.

Holick, M.F. (2007). Vitamin D deficiency. New England Journal of Medicine. 357, 266-281.

Misra, M., Pacaud, D., Petryk, A., Collett-Solberg, P. F., Kappy, M., & on behalf of the Drug and Therapeutics Committee of the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society. (2008). Vitamin D Deficiency in Children and Its Management: Review of Current Knowledge and Recommendations. Pediatrics122(2), 398-417. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-1894

United States. Department of Agriculture. MyPyramid.gov (2008). Dietary supplements. Retrieved November 23, 2010, from http://www.mypyramid.gov/mypyramidmoms/dietary_supplements_prenatal_print.html