Depleted Mothers

Vulnerable Spots in Your Armor of Resilience
In a perfect world, you could cope with all the demands upon you or with scarce resources by being Supermom. Yet that's not real. Each of us has some vulnerabilities that lower our resilience, the way a wound on a finger creates an opening for bacteria. Like a small cut that makes little difference until you do the dishes, a vulnerability may not matter much before children arrive. But then it begins to exacerbate the effects of the demands upon you; for instance, an immune system weakened by chronic stress is less able to defend you against the germs brought home from preschool. And any vulnerabilities lower your ability to handle shortages in the resources you receive; for instance, if you are even a little anemic when you enter motherhood – as ninety percent of women are – your nutritional reserves will be even further eroded by the typical low-iron diet of a mother.

Please see if any of these vulnerabilities, common among mothers, apply to you:

  • Having children at an older age. In the last two decades, the birthrate of women over thirty has increased by about one-third, and the rate of first births for women over thirty-five has nearly doubled. Older mothers are less able to weather a pregnancy, are more prone to fatigue and illness once children arrive, and have less time to restore a hormonal equilibrium before menopause.

  • Nutritional deficiencies. About nine mothers in ten have not consumed the U.S. government recommended amounts of minerals and vitamins before conceiving their first child. Nutritional deficiencies are cumulative, and since about 40 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned, there's often little time to remedy them before the demands of bearing and raising a child gather a full head of steam. And even if you start taking supplements, it often takes months or years to restore healthy levels of nutrients in your body.

  • Genetic predisposition. Your relatives may have had illnesses of the endocrine system, obstetric complications, or other conditions that raise your risk for similar problems.

  • Prior health problems. Women are more likely than men to enter parenthood with preexisting gastrointestinal, hormonal, or auto-immune conditions.

  • Postpartum depression (PPD). At least one mother in ten will have an episode of PPD, which can increase her risk for hormonal or mood-related problems a year or two later. If you did suffer from postpartum depression after your first baby, your chance triples of having PPD again with another child.

  • General history of depressed mood. Some women have a tendency toward depression, and this can be intensified by the hormonal fluctuations of motherhood.

  • Temperament. Raising kids is likely to be more stressful if a mother has a high need for control or orderliness, or it she tends to be anxious or irritable.


From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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