8. You Should Also Know

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping soundly may be difficult for you now or later in pregnancy. The discomforts of pregnancy may impact on your sleep.

Research shows if a woman experiences sleep disruption during pregnancy, she may be at higher risk of some pregnancy problems. Less sleep may also increase your risk of postpartum depression. And if you’re exhausted when you begin labor, you may be at a higher risk for a Cesarean delivery.

Lack of sleep can impact you in other ways. Studies show if you get less than 6 hours of sleep a night during the last few weeks of pregnancy, your labor may be longer. If you get less than 7 hours of sleep a night, you’re at higher risk of getting a cold when exposed to the virus.

Sleep disturbances are common in pregnancy—between 65 and 95% of all pregnant women experience some sleep changes. Try some of the following suggestions to help you get a good night’s sleep.

• Develop a nighttime ritual. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

• Don’t drink too much after 4pm so you don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom all night long.

• Avoid caffeine after late afternoon.

• Slowly drink a glass of milk before bed.

• Get regular exercise.

• Keep your bedroom dark and cool.

• The scent of jasmine may help you fall asleep faster, sleep better and wake up feeling more refreshed.

• Record favorite late-night TV shows, and watch them the next day.

• Even if you feel exhausted, don’t nap close to your bedtime.

• If you get heartburn at night, sleep propped up or sitting in a comfortable chair.

Studies show listening to soothing sounds before bedtime can train your brain to fall asleep faster and sleep as long as if you took a sleep medication. It takes about 10 days of consistent listening to train your brain to this calming effect.

Stretching for 15 to 30 minutes during the day may also help you sleep better. Stretching eases muscle tension so you’re more relaxed when you go to bed. Try sitting on the edge of a chair and leaning forward far enough to touch your knees with your chest. Let your arms hang by your sides, and gently stretch your fingertips to the floor.

If you still have trouble sleeping after trying the above suggestions, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she may prescribe a medication for you. You may also want to ask your healthcare provider to check your iron levels, which can impact on sleep.

Research shows if you eat a lot of high-fat food during the day, you may pay for it at night by tossing and turning more. Pastas and other complex carbohydrates may help relax you.

You may experience shortness of breath due to your bigger tummy, which can interfere with sleep. Lie on your left side. Prop up your head and shoulders with extra pillows. If this doesn’t help, a warm shower or a soak in a warm (not hot) tub might help. If you just can’t get comfortable in bed, try sleeping partially sitting up in a recliner.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is an epidemic problem in the United States; every year almost 5 million women experience a serious assault by someone who says they love them. The term domestic violence refers to violence against adolescent and adult females within a family or intimate relationship. It can take the form of physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological abuse. Actions or threats of action are intended to frighten, intimidate, humiliate, wound or injure a person. Abuse affects all income levels and all ethnic groups.

Unfortunately, abuse does not usually stop during pregnancy. Research shows most women who experience violence during pregnancy may have experienced it before.

Research shows one in six women is abused during pregnancy; abuse occurs in 4 to 8% of all pregnancies. Domestic violence kills more pregnant women than any single medical complication of pregnancy. In fact, it accounts for 20% of all pregnancy-related deaths. Some studies indicate abuse may begin during pregnancy; still other studies show abuse escalates during pregnancy. A startling fact to be aware of—up to 60% of men who abuse their partners also abuse their children.

Abuse can be an obstacle to prenatal care. Some abused pregnant women do not seek prenatal care until later in pregnancy. They may miss more prenatal appointments. Women at risk may not gain enough weight, or they may suffer from more injuries during pregnancy. Other risks include trauma to the mother, miscarriage, preterm delivery, vaginal bleeding, low-birthweight infants, fetal injury and a greater number of Cesarean deliveries.

If you’re unsure if you are in an abusive relationship, ask yourself the following questions.

• Does my partner threaten me or throw things when he’s angry?

• Does he make jokes at my expense and put me down?

• Has he physically hurt me in the past year?

• Has he forced me to perform a sexual act?

• Does he say it’s my fault when he hits me?

• Does he promise me it won’t happen again, but it does?

• Does he keep me away from family and friends?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your relationship may be unhealthy, and it may be abusive.

Many victims of abuse blame themselves; you are not to blame. It isn’t your fault, no matter what a boyfriend or spouse may say. If you’re being abused, we encourage you to seek help immediately. Intervention can be lifesaving for you and your unborn child.

Talk to someone—a friend, relative, someone at your church or your healthcare provider are good resources. There are many domestic violence programs, crisis hotlines, shelters and legal-aid services available to help you. Call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for help and advice.

Plan for your safety. This may include a “fast exit.” A recommended safety plan includes the following.

• Pack a suitcase.

• Arrange for a safe place to stay, regardless of the time of day or night.

• Hide some cash.

• Know where to go for help if you are hurt.

• Keep needed items in a safe place, such as prescription medicines, health insurance cards, credit cards, checkbook, driver’s license and medical records.

• Be prepared to call the police.

If you’re hurt before you can leave permanently, go to the nearest emergency room. Tell personnel at the emergency room how you were hurt. Ask for a copy of your medical records, and give them to your own healthcare provider.

These steps may seem drastic, but remember—domestic violence is a serious problem with serious consequences. Protect yourself and your unborn baby!

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