|ROSE TRIPLETS: DELIVERED AT 35 WEEKS
“I was a mess, but mindfulness helped me cope”
Twenty-four weeks pregnant with triplets and trying to keep up with a one year old son at home, Lemont resident Elizabeth Rose, 31, was feeling overwhelmed and struggling. That’s when she started individual counseling sessions with a specialist from Linden Oaks at Edward.
Rose was admitted to Edward Hospital’s Mother/Baby Unit with complications in her pregnancy. She had a series of tests and discovered that she was already dilated 1 ½ cm and having some contractions. She was put on bed-rest for five weeks. She was able to return home for two weeks, but readmitted to Edward for three more weeks of bed-rest and monitoring.
Although she wasn’t showing symptoms of clinical depression or other mental health disorder, Nina Appadurai, a post-doctoral intern with Linden Oaks, met with Rose as part of a routine mental health assessment.
Helping expectant moms
Linden Oaks has dedicated Appadurai’s position to provide psychological services, including support groups and individual counseling for women. Appadurai meets with every antepartum patient – women who are admitted to Edward Hospital due to some complication in their pregnancy - to identify women who might be struggling with depression, anxiety or other issue.
Since September, Appadurai has worked with an average of 10 long-term patients on a daily basis, and holds weekly support groups for women.
Upon an initial assessment, Appadurai identified that Rose was experiencing a high level of anxiety and stress, both of which are normal feelings during a high-risk pregnancy.
“When I met Liz, she was having a hard time adjusting and managing the idea that there might be complications with the pregnancy,” recalls Appadurai. She was also having a difficult time adjusting to being away from her one year old son.
Depression and pregnancy
Between 14-23 percent of women will experience depression during pregnancy, and an estimated 5-25% will have post-partum depression, according to statistics published by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. If left untreated, depression can have serious effects on both the mother and baby, including low birth weight, preterm birth, and even preeclampsia. It can also seriously impair a mother’s ability to care for her child.
“When I first came in, I was a mess – for lack of a better word. I wasn’t sure of anything. I didn’t know how long I’d be away from my son. I didn’t know when the babies would come. I didn’t know if the babies were healthy,” says Rose, who describes herself as otherwise being calm and upbeat.
During the 10 weeks of bed-rest at Edward, Appadurai initially met with Rose almost daily to provide 60 minutes of individual counseling. After that, the two would meet about three times a week for brief “maintenance” sessions. Because Rose was bedridden, Appadurai came to her room at the hospital and would sit bedside to discuss coping skills and mindfulness strategies.
Being in the moment
Mindfulness is a component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a type of psychological intervention used by Linden Oaks.
Mindfulness strategies help you to focus on being present in the moment in an open, nonjudgmental way. Instead of getting caught up in thoughts about the past (the “could haves” or should haves”), or worrying about the future (the “what if” thoughts), mindfulness practices encourage us to increase our awareness of the here and now. Appadurai explains that the more we bring our attention back to noticing the present moment without judging it or needing it to be different, the less we suffer.
“Talking to a trained mental health professional is very helpful for a high-risk expectant mother. For high-risk patients, the health of the baby is often complicated, causing even more stress. The OB nurses at Edward are just wonderful - compassionate and highly skilled. However, talking to a trained mental health professional helps patients see things in a different light,” says Appadurai.
Using mindfulness exercises, guided meditation and printed materials, Rose learned how to manage the stress that she was perceiving and quickly put these strategies to work in her daily life.
Putting strategies to work
Whenever Rose started to experience overwhelming thoughts, she would first notice and accept the presence of those thoughts. Instead of struggling with those thoughts or getting wrapped up in them, she would then mindfully shift her focus to the task at hand.
For example, if she was taking a shower, she would focus her thoughts on the smell and feeling of the water. She used her five senses of taste, smell, feeling, seeing and hearing to stay connected to the present moment rather than become absorbed in her anxious thoughts.
“I’m a people pleaser and I couldn’t do that during this pregnancy. I would have overwhelming thoughts that were almost irrational, that I’d never see my son again. So, I’d focus on my task,” Rose says.
On February 7, at nearly 35 weeks, Rose gave birth in a c-section to three healthy little girls. Rose was able to go home a few days later while her little girls stayed in the NICU (Emma was in for 9 days; Zoey, 11 days; and Grace stayed for 14, according to their mom).
“The delivery date kept changing, and I didn’t know from day to day if the babies were coming. But, I was in a much better place and ready to welcome my little girls into the world. I hope these resources will continue to be available for patients who are in need,” says Rose.