Self-care during pregnancy is about much more than midnight munchies.
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Healthy Essentials

I jolted awake, in a cold sweat and gasping for air.

I was midway through my much-wanted, much-anticipated pregnancy with our second child, and in retrospect, I can say with some certainty that I was experiencing antenatal depression (depression during pregnancy). Little did I know, depression during pregnancy is actually pretty common — up to a quarter of women may experience it. But at the time, I felt hopeless. I knew I wanted this baby, but the depression led me to fear that the pregnancy was a mistake. To wake from a dream about this baby not making it into the world, just to dream it, left me feeling certain that I didn’t deserve to be a mom.

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Depression can rear its head for any number of reasons, and I don’t know that I could have prevented it, but I do know that I wasn’t taking good care of myself.

Mercifully, during the pregnancy, my hormones shifted again and the darkness passed. (Though my depression passed, it doesn't always, so contacting a health care professional can be essential.) And not long after, my little girl was born, and all those feelings of fear and hopelessness felt so distant that they didn’t seem real. I was so glad to have her. I felt so fortunate that she was mine.

Now, finding myself at the beginning of a third pregnancy, I'm excited but also a little nervous that prenatal depression could creep back in down the road.

I didn't experience depression during my first pregnancy, and I don't know what my third will hold. But during this pregnancy, I’m determined to make self-care a priority. Because my emotional health matters.

Not only to me and my husband, but also to my children and most definitely to the little one growing inside me. What I’m enduring matters.

Image via iStock.

My self-care will include more "me time," more social activities, more days vegging out (at-home spa hour with body yogurt, anyone?), and more time talking to my doctor about what I’m going through.

What everyone needs is different, and there are many places to start — from easy things like taking a walk around the block to ones that take more of a commitment, like learning how to say no (check out this list over at the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® Program). I’m starting with daily meditation, deep breathing when I’m feeling overwhelmed, and a determination to have more girl time with my friends.

It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn, but now I know that sometimes it’s more than just "crazy pregnancy hormones." Sometimes my feelings are telling me something important. I’m finally ready to listen.

We don’t talk much about depression during pregnancy — isn’t it supposed to be a time of bonding and nesting and anticipation after all?

Image via iStock.

But according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, experiencing depression during that time isn’t exactly rare. Between 14% and 23% of women are reported to face some depression symptoms during pregnancy — but I have to wonder if those numbers would be higher if we weren’t so squeamish about the topic.

Your feelings are a big deal, but treating depression doesn't have to be. There are lots of approaches available for depression or anxiety that are safe for you and baby. And you shouldn't feel like you have to do it alone — doctors and therapists are there to help.

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I'm a busy working mom, and we are in the middle of trying to sell our house. I know how hard it can be for us moms to find time for ourselves.

And when I leave the kids with my husband to have lunch with a friend, part of me feels guilty to even take a couple of hours for myself. But I know that by prioritizing self-care, I am investing in the well-being of my entire family. None of us likes the distracted and impatient mom I am when I’m burned out and overwhelmed, so I take some time for myself to make my time with my family so much better.

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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Anyone who has gone through the process of disentangling themselves from an addiction knows it's an ongoing, daily battle. It may get easier, and the payoffs may become more apparent, but it's still a decision someone makes each day to stay detached from their substance of choice.

Seeing someone who has a long record of sobriety—especially after a very public struggle—can be motivating and inspiring for others in different stages of their recovery journey. That's part of why actor Rob Lowe's announcement that he's reached 31 years sober is definitely something to celebrate.

"Today I have 31 years drug and alcohol free," Lowe wrote on Twitter. "I want to give thanks to everyone walking this path with me, and welcome anyone thinking about joining us; the free and the happy. And a big hug to my family for putting up with me!! Xoxo"

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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