Understanding Stress, Aging & Emotions in Motherhood: Roundtable Discussion

HER Experts discuss so-called “mom brain”, and also explore aging, changes in hormones, and the effects our stage of life can have on our overall health. The experts discuss how these issues impact a mother as well as her children and ways to navigate these challenges.

Featuring HER Expert Panelists

Description:

Our lives change in a myriad of ways once we become a mother, some positive and others less so. From experiences with “mom brain” or brain fog to overwhelming stress and anxiety, our brain and body can become taxed in a whole new way. In today’s episode we hear from experts on so-called “mom brain”, and also explore aging, changes in hormones, and the effects our stage of life can have on our overall health. We dive into how these issues impact a mother as well as her children and hear from our experts on the best ways to navigate these challenges.

The first HER Health Collective Roundtable of 2022 featured the following HER Expert panelists:

  • Dr. Erika Aragona – Dual board-certified family medicine physician with a focus on preventive medicine and women’s health
  • Emily Chaffee – Certified Birth & Postpartum Doula, Massage and Bodywork Therapist, Certified Educator of Infant Massage, Fertility Specialist, founder & owner Carolina Birth & Wellness
  • Kerry Jones – RD – Pediatric and Maternal Nutrition – Milestones Nutrition

Today’s episode includes a discussion of the following topics:

  • What happens in the brain during episodes of “brain fog”
  • The impact of stress on parents
  • How stress trickles down to children
  • Learning to manage stress levels & help children navigate their own stressors
  • The effect of chronic maternal stress on a fetus
  • Emotions and feeling overwhelmed – how to navigate ups and downs of life
  • The power of hormonal panels and routine care
  • Navigating information overload and Dr. Google; knowing who to trust and the importance of following your gut
  • Three pieces of advice and the need to eliminate “should”

Transcript:

Cindi 

Welcome, HER Health Collective hosts four round tables each year in an effort to bring together our experts and dive into the topics that matter to moms the most. We have found that these roundtables are often our most well liked episodes. Today, we are delighted to dive into a discussion of motherhood and the myriad ways our lives typically change once we become a mother, from The Mom Brain, and brain fog to overwhelming stress and anxiety. We aim to explore how these issues impact a mom, as well as her children and hear from our experts on the best ways to navigate these challenges. Today, we are honored to be joined by a few of our 2022 HER expert panelists. And we’re going to take just a couple minutes to let each of our experts introduce themselves and share their area of expertise, so that the listeners can hear each experts voice and have a better idea who is speaking during the upcoming conversation. So Kerry, would you mind popping on and just saying hi?

 

Kerry Jones 

Yes. Hi. My name is Kerry. I’m a registered dietitian and my work specifically with women during pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, and also fertility and then children. So that is my area of expertise. And I’m happy to be here.

 

Cindi 

We’re so glad to have you here. Thanks for joining us, Kerry. Emily, would you mind popping on and just saying hello?

 

Emily Chaffee 

Sure. Thanks. My name is Emily Chafee, and I own Carolina birth and wellness, a local birth and fertility and postpartum doula agency. And my expert, my area of expertise is kind of in the fertility and birth side of doula support.

 

Cindi

That’s wonderful. Thanks, Emily. And just so everyone knows, our experts, we’re very grateful for the experts that are here and our experts are very busy. So we want to just acknowledge the time that you’re giving us and also let our listeners know that other experts may be popping in and out as their schedule allows. And without further ado, we’re going to go ahead and jump right into our discussion with our first question to our expert panelists. It’s a common misconception in our society that the human body is meant to stay the same shape and size throughout our lifetime. This is entirely false. While other changes are congruent with aging such as gray hair, wrinkled skin, joint and muscle discomfort are openly discussed. The changes in our body are not as openly discussed, people think that they stay the same. Our brain also goes through changes over time, but these changes are also not common knowledge of the general public. We often hear women talking about their experience with brain fog. Women mentioned forgetfulness, struggling with their working memory, which are things like remembering a name or a specific word. And Moms mentioned other cognitive changes at different periods throughout their lives. A few main life shifts triggering these responses and women include puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause. From the perspective of your specific industry, will you please help our listeners understand what’s happening in their brains that causes the symptoms that I previously mentioned? Or is it all in our heads? Help us understand this, please?

 

Kerry Jones 

So it’s 100% not in our heads. There are definitely the times that you’re mentioning or critical points when our hormones are shifting or shifting at puberty, they’re shifting in pregnancy and they’re shifting around menopause as well. And we often think that hormones really only affect our ability to conceive children. When in reality, they play such an important role in so many other bodily functions, including our brain function. And so there’s so many things going on during that time at the hormonal shifts, that it makes complete sense when you understand the hormones are also impacting your brain that you’re having those brain changes and those different symptoms associated as well.

 

Emily Chaffee 

Yeah, it’s definitely not in our heads that this is happening. So in terms of, you know, when someone’s pregnant, their hormones are four times their normal level, and then immediately following birth, and in that initial postpartum period, the hormones dropped to way below normal. So there’s this huge decrease and shift in the human body as well, or in the female body, as well as then also running on lack of sleep, that negatively impacts your hormones, learning how to breast or chestfeed if you’re doing that way, having milk come in everything. And so with that huge drop in hormones, it’s named the baby blues period. And it’s kind of you know, at least that is normalized. But the idea that that can kind of carry over then more further into postpartum and develop into postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, is I think it’s definitely being talked about more, and being a little bit more normalized, but with one in five women being impacted by that, that is such a huge amount of the population. That’s having this huge shift. It’s, it’s not just in our heads, it’s definitely not just in our heads and, you know, things like this kind of bring it to the forefront, like, okay, so you’re, you’re experiencing this, you’re definitely not alone. And I think that is what’s really powerful about these types of conversations is just to normalize it.

 

Kerry Jones

The postpartum period, because that’s the number one time that women say to me that they have Mom Brain is in postpartum, because like you’re saying, there’s so many things going on that time you not only have the hormonal fluctuations, but they’re recovering from childbirth, and they’re learning how to care for their new baby, which should come with a manual, but unfortunately, it does not. And so there are so many things going on that, of course, we’re gonna have that mom brain and those other symptoms. And I totally agree that I love that these conversations are happening, because like you mentioned, we believe that one in five have postpartum depression. But I truly believe that number is so much higher. Because I think there’s so much shame and stigma with coming out and saying, I have postpartum depression, because I feel that women think that that reflects negatively on them as a mom, especially as a new mom, but we need to talk about it, because so many women are going through this and if we are talking about it, then we can support them properly.

 

Cindi 

No, I was just gonna say I’m so glad that you both have normalized it because even myself, entering into perimenopause, I’m just noticing a change in my brain and constantly saying to myself, why can’t I remember what this particular thing is? Oh, it’s a door. You know, like, just really easy things that I should remember but not being able to recall words, not being able to just this general overarching brain haze that I am experiencing. So you talk a lot about the hormonal changes that are affecting the clarity of what’s happening in our brains and the brain function. Is there a way to minimize mom brain? And how can women prevent further cognitive decline?

 

Emily Chaffee 

I don’t honestly have an answer for that. I think that’s kind of a little bit more in Kerry’s wheelhouse, but what we always tell our clients is like, write it down. There’s no shame and you know, writing down what you need, especially like looking at the postpartum period, specifically, obviously, that’s my area. You know, we talk a lot about like, planning so that you’re not the only one. And I think we touch on this later. So I’m kind of jumping ahead. But like, you’re the moms aren’t the only one who are in charge of all the things. We had a client out a couple years ago, who was like, I need to teach my husband how to let people into the security gate, because he doesn’t know how. And she’s like, if I’m gonna have this baby, like it can’t all be in my head, and then I forget how to do it, and to delegate these tasks. So I think learning to kind of let go a little bit. But in terms of hormonal changes, I think that is all Kerry and her Dutch test reading.

 

Kerry Jones 

Well, you’re right, the Dutch test is wonderful at looking at hormones for anyone who hasn’t looked into that, but, um, it’s amazing the different things that impact our hormones. And again, I’m really only an expert in the nutrition perspective. And so there are several nutrients that we know do impact our mental health such as choline, and iron and DHA and vitamin D. And really, if we’re thinking about kind of a way we can eat that improves these levels. What we found is the Mediterranean diet, which really emphasizes whole grains and fruits and vegetables and our healthy fats, and choosing our plant proteins and our fish and our seafood over the red meats and the other animal meats, that really has huge benefits in terms of our mental health. And we found that when people follow that they have a 35% decrease in developing depression. So again, that’s just one measure of our mental health, but it definitely can impact the cognitive decline side as well. And another thing to consider is that 95% of serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that mediates our moods, is produced in the GI tract. So if we’re really not supporting our gut health, then it really can have an impact on our brain health as well. So really just want to kind of nourish our body well.

 

Crissy 

Yeah, I think the gut brain connection is fascinating. And as they come out with more and more evidence, showing just how connected the two are, it really makes you think more about the foods that you choose to eat and just, I mean, you eat everything, but how those choices ultimately impact things like your mood, things like your overall hormonal balance, things like that. So stress has always been a factor for parents. It’s always been there. But we’ve definitely seen the impacts of stress hit an all time high with the recent pandemic. According to the American Psychological Association, decision making fatigue is having a disproportionate impact on parents, given the changes to work, the school issues that crop up weekly. In some cases, the everyday routines that were disrupted during the pandemic and in some cases still are being disrupted. The APA study found that parents were more likely to say that family responsibilities in relationships are significant sources of stress in their lives, they are more likely to feel that they could have used more emotional support than they received over the past year, and they’re less likely to feel that they are doing enough to manage their stress. How have you seen stress impacting the parents you work with? How is it impacting their lives?

 

Emily Chaffee 

For our birth doula clients, we’ve seen just this constant. We don’t know what the hospital rules are going to be when we give birth. So they plan for one thing, and maybe that happens, luckily, at least in the immediate triangle, the guidelines for visitors and doulas in the hospitals haven’t changed much. But down in Fayetteville, for example, are some of our colleagues down there are posting every day about how there’s a new rule about when doulas can join, when a partner can join, if a doula can join, and so how do you even kind of plan for these events, when you don’t know who’s going to be able to be there? We’ve also seen a higher number of people giving birth earlier. And you know, at first we kind of were thinking like, oh, maybe this is a reduction in having to travel and like a little bit more ability to take better care of themselves. But we’re rarely having clients who are up to 42 weeks. So generally like 39, 40, maybe 41. So that’s anecdotal. So I don’t know what the evidence says about that. But it’s just something interesting to note as well. Then postpartum again, you know, how do you plan for families to come help and travel and come visit? How do you want to think about that? You know, or is it just like a strict? No, no one’s coming. But so that’s been really hard for our clients as well.

 

Kerry Jones 

That’s interesting that you’ve noticed that people are giving birth earlier. Um, I haven’t seen that statistic. But I would believe it again, just like you’re saying that there’s so much extra stress recently, and we know that stress can cause premature birth. So that’s really interesting. From my perspective, I would say that, I find that parents who are coming to me have the extra stress of not being able to get the care that they need. So for example, if I have a patient who needs a speech therapist, they are so backed up, that it’s just this extra thing that’s adding to the stress of like, Oh, my child needs help, and I’m coming to you. But I can’t get the help that I need, like, what do I do so and that’s really unfortunate situation, I wish I had the solution to it, but we just need more help to support parents. Um, because I kind of want to reverse side, I’ve noticed that recently, there has been extra stressors from a medical perspective, because parents haven’t been able to get the support that they need.

 

Crissy 

Yeah, and whenever a parent is dealing with all of this stress, all of these stressors, it undoubtedly trickles down throughout the family unit, but particularly to our children. I know, I noticed this in my own household. I mean, I can see the ways in which my daughter is four and a half, I can see the ways in which the past year, year or two years has really kind of altered things for her and kind of how she has been impacted by it. So I’d love to know, just in your what you’ve seen, in your expert opinion, how does this stress of the parents in turn impact the children?

 

Kerry Jones 

Like you, like you said, you’ve witnessed, we definitely have seen that children, even infants can really sense their parents being stressed. And so we’ve seen through research and experience that that in turn gives them extra stress. So that could be seen and kind of minor changes. So maybe it’s impacting their eating habits, maybe they’re not eating as much as they used to, or maybe they’re eating more, because they’re kind of stress eating and emotionally eating. Maybe they’re having trouble sleeping, maybe they are acting out or having these mood and behavior changes. That’s really kind of a result of that extra stress and then picking up on stress in their environment,

 

Crissy 

which then in turn gives the parents more stress again.

 

Emily Chaffee 

Yes, so I kind of want to touch on the other end of that spectrum. So obviously, we’re under all this more pressure, more stress. But I think one thing, one thing that’s been great about the pandemic, and I know that sentence should never be put together great about the pandemic, that these conversations are happening. And finally moms are going to be able to be or you know, saying like, this is hard, I need help. And I think that people are responding to it a little bit differently. Like, okay, yeah, there’s a pandemic, this is hard. And how can we help support these these women, these parents, you know, not the resources might not be there. But the conversations are happening, and especially in like, the doula world, the dietitian world too, you know, we’re business crazy. I mean, we’re getting so many new clients, and they just, they’re, they’re reaching out, and they want the support, and they are realizing that they can’t all do it themselves. So I think that is an inverse of this positive aspect of increased stress during the pandemic.

 

Crissy 

Yeah, absolutely. You know, when so much feels outside of a person’s control. And really, this applies even outside of the pandemic, just you know, parenting itself is a very stressful endeavor. So when so much feels outside of our control, what can a parent do to manage their own stress levels? And in turn, how can they help their children navigate stress and anxiety?

 

Kerry Jones 

Well, I would say like Emily already alluded to, I think getting support is kind of one of the biggest components in this. So I feel like motherhood can already feel isolating. And so if you’re adding on kind of a stressful environment, on top of that, really, you need the support there. So groups like this where you have kind of that support network there for you. And then of course, if you need an extra external medical provider, talking to a psychologist and talking to the therapist and getting that help as well. But I really think that the kind of biggest factor is figuring out why, like, why are you stressed in the first place? Because if we know the why, then we can figure out how to manage it. So maybe it’s something you can simply change within your routine. Maybe it’s you need to delegate some things like we’ve talked about before. Really just kind of figuring out why it’s happening in the first place really allows us to be able to kind of figure out a solution.

 

Emily Chaffee 

Yeah, I love figuring out the why, like if you can kind of pinpoint that a little bit, and maybe it’s something that’s outside of your control, you know, your child needs a speech therapist. And that’s not able, you know, someone’s not there to be available that Kerry mentioned earlier. But maybe there’s different, like, tiny steps that you can take that help with that. Maybe finding a peer support group that can help finding these kinds of other things that can support you until you can get that medical attention that’s needed. And I love the idea of peer support, as well as, you know, professional support because the two work hand in hand and are needed together. So you know, the HER circle is a perfect example of getting that peer support. And then getting connected with an expert or another professional who can kind of help in other areas is really important as well.

 

Kerry Jones 

I would also say, if your child is having more stress and anxiety, then I think helping them to manage it, that might not be something that they’ve experienced before. But if you’re able to kind of talk about it with them, and help them figure out what is the best way for them to kind of figure out how to manage it can with journaling help, would having some kind of alone time would connecting with the group, what would be beneficial for them, so that we can help everybody get the support and care, especially since they might not have dealt with those emotions before?

 

Crissy 

Yeah, I would even just throw out that so many times, when you’re in that state of high stress, and things are just really getting to you. It’s often the things that we don’t want to do that would help us the most, you know, for me when I go and I move my body in some way, and it’s not always a stress or a tough strenuous workout. But it might be a walk in the neighborhood, when I’m really stressed. That’s what I need to just sort of get me out of that mindset or getting out in nature, reaching out and calling a friend. Those are the things that you don’t really think about, or really want to do when you’re really, really stressed. But they are the things that probably help the most in that moment.

 

Emily Chaffee 

I also like the idea too of figuring out those mundane tasks that you just don’t want to do, that maybe aren’t related to the stressful event. But if you know, you know, whatever is happening, and you still also need groceries, like you know, pay the $15 to get Harris Teeter to deliver the food, or do the curbside pickup, whatever it is just to kind of decrease other areas that make it a little other areas a little bit easier. So that your attention can be more focused on whatever that y is. And you don’t have to deal with all that other extraneous things that’s constantly running on that to do list in the back of our mind.

 

Kerry Jones 

Definitely, and I would say in terms of like the exercise and figuring out the mundane tasks that we can kind of delegate out. Also just making sure that we’re getting sleep I feel like that’s another one that gets forgotten is we get stressed or like oh my god I have to work through it. I have so many tasks my to do list is forever long. But really your body needs sleep. And again thinking back to how we can kind of manage our mental health, sleep is so important.

 

Cindi 

It goes back to what Crissy said were some of the things we know what to do, but they’re just so hard to implement. Because I know that one of the areas that is still a struggle for me is I’ll immediately take from my self care bucket and a lot of people take from their sleep buckets and whatnot. So we just discussed ways that stress influences a  person’s mental, physical and emotional health. There’s some conflicting professional opinions on the effects chronic maternal stress levels have on the fetus. We would like to clarify the possible effects maternal stress has on an unborn child using any evidence based studies available. It’s inevitable that a mother will experience some stress while pregnant. When is the stress experienced of concern?

 

Dr. Erika Aragona 

Well, hi, everybody. I’m so glad I could jump in.

 

Cindi 

Hello. We’re so glad to have you here. This is Dr. Aragona.

 

Dr. Erika Aragona 

Yes, hi. Sorry, I’m seeing patients I still have my mask on. But you know, what I see a lot of in the office is residual physiological responses to stress. So you will see a mother with uncontrolled anxiety for example, or poor sleep, which increases her cortisol levels. What does that mean for a baby? What do I say to moms? The biggest thing is you can have a poor fetal response because as mom’s heart rate goes up, it can stress the baby and baby’s heart rate can go up a lot as well. And when you have a significantly elevated heart It can cause problems for the fetus. Another thing that we see is, with those cortisol levels rising and the stress hormone surging, a lot of the times fetal development, depending on how the mom responds, can be altered. So if you have a mom under severe against stressors of anxiety, who has then changed her eating habits, or has been exercising more than she normally would have to combat that stress, that also can strain fetal cardiovascular working so essentially, the baby can be directly impacted by how the mom has stress, but also how the mom reacts to stress. So what we try to do is counsel on just the breathing techniques that help so much and getting good oxygenation and naturally lowering mom’s heart rate, helping them have really good sleep habits, which is crazily difficult to counsel on any pregnant mom, because I was pregnant, you don’t sleep when you’re pregnant, you all know that to be true, you can’t, you’re uncomfortable. But getting moms to find the pillows that work for them, or ways to position their bodies to be upright so they can breathe without restriction. Because if their sleep quality suffers, then their energy suffers. The next day, they’re moodier, with fatigue comes another rise of this cortisol, our body’s fight or flight hormones through the roof. And we do know that moms who are under immense amounts of trauma and stress can have problems with fetal, full healthy development because of that. So the counseling on healthy techniques to help mom be at her best matters so much for her to know that she’s important and not just a vessel, right? Because I hated being told, You can’t eat this, you have to do this, baby comes first. And I was like, Well, what about my mental health? What about my needs? And if I prioritize moms first and then say, Listen, I know you’re going to be a great mom, look how great you’re taking care of your baby, you’re coming to all your visits. But can we focus on you? Because when you’re healthier, so is your unborn baby. And I think that’s the message we want to take home is, both people matter, you know.

 

Cindi 

Thank you so much for that. Dr. Aragona. I want Kerry and Emily to chime in as well. But I want to add to this question with another piece. Can the stress a mother experiences during pregnancy ultimately affect the way a child tolerates stress as they go through life? So once they’re, they’re born and they’re starting to go into toddlerhood and into preschool age and whatnot? Is the stress that they’ve experienced in utero — Can that still affect them?

 

Kerry Jones 

So from my research, I have found that it can. And I’ve seen that when we have children who are born to mothers with increased perinatal stress, they’re more likely to have an increased risk of developing depression as a teenager. And like Dr. Erica was mentioning, we think that’s because it’s all the stresses altering things in their development. And so it is kind of putting them at that increased risk. And that’s just if the mom was stressed during pregnancy, not to stress all the moms that are pregnant, because we’re talking about this. Um, but I also think it’s important to note that it also depends when the stress ends. So we know that it’s a high stress time. So we talked about all the things that happen during postpartum. And so if the stress is happening during pregnancy, and then it’s also continuing during postpartum like we mentioned, infants, along with children are very perceptive of stress. So that’s kind of that double exposure to stress in a sense, and that we know can increase children’s stress as well.

 

Emily Chaffee 

I don’t really know honestly, the impacts on fetal development that’s kind of out of my wheelhouse, but I do I really liked what Dr. Erica said about working on breathing techniques. Because you know, even if you are in you know, pregnant and having the stress, you know, potentially how it can relate to fetal development and then baby down the line and then potentially teenage depression. You know, what if we also are increasing this idea that both mom and baby matter and then reinforcing this, this idea throughout than toddler years, when a toddler is crying and we’re like, okay, we hear you, you know, rather than like, No, you will do this. Obviously, there’s times when you need to do that. But rather than barking and yelling at the toddler, like, let them experience it, and then teach them like, okay, maybe let’s take a deep breath. So kind of teaching these coping mechanisms from an early age, and normalizing and not just self care as a loose term of getting a massage or getting a pedicure. But self care isn’t getting enough sleep, eating good quality food, taking, listening to your body, listening to your mind when it tells you something. And if we use the stress that we’re experiencing during the pandemic in a positive way, then maybe our babies will learn like, okay, I can handle hard things. And here’s how I can get through it.

 

Kerry Jones 

Yeah, I love that. And then just making sure that we’re doing it too, I think.

 

Emily Chaffee 

Because, yeah, that’s way easier said than done.

 

Kerry Jones 

Just just putting it out there. We’re caring about mom and baby. Yeah,

 

Emily Chaffee 

much easier to say like other people, though, like,

 

Kerry Jones 

we got to take some of our own advice sometimes.

 

Cindi 

It’s so true. Just teaching that resiliency to the children and having us mirror what we’re hoping to see in them. And you’re right, sometimes it is so much easier said than done. But just working towards that. I also really liked how Dr. Erica had mentioned, that we’re not just a vessel for a child, and that we need to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves as well, which is something we’ve talked about in previous roundtables where sometimes if a mom is experiencing some mental health, where she needs added support of let’s say, medication, she’s hesitant to take it for fear of the baby. But, you know, remembering that a mom’s healthy mental health is just as important for the benefit of the baby, as well. So that was a great discussion.

 

Crissy 

Okay, so kind of taking this all a step further. And just broadening this discussion to emotions. Emotions are so incredibly complex, especially as a parent, sometimes the wide range of emotions can seemingly come out of nowhere, and I am in no way referring to myself at all, when I make this next statement. Everything is fine. And then it’s as if I mean, the mom or dad just snapped out of nowhere, like there’s just seemingly something out of nowhere. And there’s just this moment where it erupts. And it might be something as simple as just not being able to take the crying anymore. The tantrums, the fighting, the fill in the blank anymore, so they lose their cool. Or perhaps it’s a great day, everything is wonderful. But for some reason, they wake up and just don’t quite feel satisfied. They’re slightly unhappy, but they can’t put a finger on why. Occasionally, we might go to bed fine, and just wake up in the morning and we’re in this bit of a funk. How does the complexity of emotions and navigating these emotions take a toll on a person over time? And what can we do to navigate these types of challenges,  these emotional ups and downs of life?

 

Kerry Jones 

So we know that all of those negative emotions of feeling overwhelmed and it’s just kind of building up if an upkeep if it keeps building up, that definitely can lead to chronic stress, which just kind of goes back to everything that we’ve talked about. And so it can upset our hormone imbalance and it can we see that can deplete some of our neurotransmitters. So the ones that kind of make us happier and be able to kind of regulate those emotions and moods. It even can accelerate aging. So it has a lot of effects on our body. So it’s really important to kind of figure out again, the why, why am I kind of getting overwhelmed? Do I need to take a step away? Am I forgetting something about taking care of myself? And what is the stress kind of underneath the emotions and how can I work on that so it doesn’t build up and boil over? Really again, getting back to the why I think is the really important key.

 

Emily Chaffee 

I’ve also noticed, at least for myself, like those times that you just kind of all of a sudden snap the hit on some key part of our identity that isn’t like, either, you know, maybe It seemed that you’re a bad mom, because you’re eating, you know, you’re letting your kids eat Wendy’s through the drive thru on the way to the daycare, you know, something like that. But you know, it’s hitting something in our identities. But you’re sensitive about it. And, you know, no one’s necessarily meaning like, oh, did you really, you know, no one’s putting judgment on it, usually sometimes. But the fact that it’s hitting our identity, a core identity, I think can be what is so challenging about navigating. So when you’re able to kind of step back, it can be helpful, I think that you know, talk about it with a friend, a doula dietitian, you know, whoever, who, you know, what, what is that thing that’s been that’s your triggering you to make you so upset about that particular statement that sent you over the edge of seemingly innocent statement that really just, I mean, we’ve all done it, like, I, I can’t think of, you know, something I did yesterday, right? Like, it happens so frequently. So I do think that’s a big deal that we’re talking about, too.

 

Cindi 

We’ve talked a lot about hormones. So a lot of it can be hormonal shifts. And my question to you all is, when should we really start paying attention to when it can be more hormonally related versus us perhaps overlooking our care, our stress level, etc? Should we be starting to have hormonal panels at a certain age? Do you have any feedback on that?

 

Emily Chaffee 

I mean, I think that everybody should get hormonal panels all the time. But that’s just me as I’m going through some hormonal issues myself, just having that power to be able to know what’s going on in your body, whether it’s good, or less than good, and having someone to help interpret that, I think, I mean, I think that should be routine care. But that’s just not not a medical opinion. But I can let Kerry see, say what she was gonna say.

 

Kerry Jones 

No, I agree, I think that it’s not a part of routine care. And it should be, I feel like, I don’t have the answer of when would be the exact times and maybe that’s something that’s more individualized to the person. But I do think like Emily, saying that it’s so beneficial to get that insight into your body and how it’s functioning. And so I would say, if you’re having these symptoms, and they’re kind of reoccurring, whether they’re reoccurring every month with your period, and you’ve kind of noticed that pattern, or you’ve been having them more often, lately than you have in the past, then I think it’s beneficial to take a deeper dive and see if there is something internally happening and investigate that

 

Cindi 

The word patterns really stuck out to me. I think that’s a really important word to make sure that we put in there if you’re recognizing a pattern, super important. And I had another thought and it just went away. There you go, guys perimenopause.

 

Crissy 

It can be really easy for parents to become overwhelmed. We’ve been talking a lot about overwhelm. But specifically, with evidence based research, we get locked into this kind of trap of needing to research everything, going to Dr. Google, going down that internet wormhole and finding all of the possible solutions to every scenario that might be cropping up in raising our children or in our own personal health. And unfortunately, the internet you know, while it’s wonderful that we have all of this information at our fingertips, it often delivers conflicting information, with experts telling completely different solutions or theories. And it can really be hard to discern what the best course of action is for your family or your own personal health. How should parents with no medical degree or advanced training, avoid this dreaded research overwhelm/analysis paralysis and decide what methods to implement in their home? How do you kind of help a mom navigate that?

 

Kerry Jones 

You mentioned Dr. Google, like a hate relationship with him. He needs to revoke his medical degree. Um, but it really can be kind of frustrating and overwhelming the amount of information that is given to us. Dr. Google thinks he knows it all. But I think that When you’re navigating all that’s out there, it’s important to, first of all, think about what the question is, you’re asking the scale of it. How medically significant is this? Should I trust my answer to Dr. Google? Or do I really need to consult with a health care professional on this? Because we do want to make sure that we’re not doing anything harmful to our bodies. But if we are searching, I think it’s also important to say, who’s giving us this information? And what gives them the right to give us this information? Is it just a blog of oh, this mom tried the supplement and it was really awesome for her? Or is this someone with a medical credential or advanced training that has the right to share this information or a national organization or someone that’s trusted, so making sure that we are checking the source of the information I think is important.

 

Emily Chaffee 

I also love the idea that you when you’re receiving this information from whomever that you are feeling heard, you know, if you’re talking to your provider, and they’re saying like, Oh, yeah, you know, that’s no big deal. And you’re like, but it may not be a medically big deal, but it’s a big deal to me. And it’s impacting my life in a negative way. And I’m coming to you because I need help. And if they’re dismissive, that’s probably not the right person for you. And I mean, that can be really hard, then Guess Who do you go to? And I don’t think that there’s one answer, or an easy answer, which, unfortunately, is  hard. But you know, I think that’s, that’s an important thing, like listening to your gut, like, what does your gut tell you? Right, talking, going back to gut health, right, our guts, tell us things and listening to that and acknowledging that maybe it doesn’t know exactly what it changed, but at least knows us and knows how we feel about it.

 

Kerry Jones 

I love that! I always say Mom’s gut is always right. If you’ve got something telling you that something is wrong, that it probably needs further investigation. And I love that if someone’s just missing you, then definitely they aren’t the right person for you, because you deserve to be heard. And I’ve heard more recently that there’s been more conflicting advice from doctors again, we, medical professionals don’t always know it all. But I would say if you go to your doctor, and you’re reaching out to someone for support, and you’re getting conflicting advice, then I think it’s important to know that you can kind of be up front and ask them, Well, why do you say this? Ask them to explain that reasoning. And see if they can work with someone else. So if it’s your allergist, and your OB GYN, who have a different opinion on something, ask if they can work together to come to an agreement. Because ultimately, we want to support you. And so it’s our job to, to work together may not always be the best at it. But we need to try because you as the patient, the goal is to support you in your health.

 

Crissy 

And it’s always okay to get a second opinion, too. I think that that’s really important. I, I know speaking for myself, personally, it’s really easy to fall in this kind of trap of thinking, Oh, this is the doctor, they know everything, whatever they say goes. And I need to listen to what they have to say. But you’re absolutely right. You know, we know our body best we know our children best. And we do need to listen to our instincts and our gut. And, you know, take that into consideration, as we’re taking advice from these, you know, professionals and these experts, and be willing to seek out additional care and advocate for our needs and our family’s needs. I think that’s really important. And I loved what you said about the gut. That was actually one of the best pieces of advice I ever got, I had this really big decision that was coming up and I couldn’t make up my mind. And I asked and this was from my dad. And he said, I asked us should I listen to my heart? Or my head? Or should I follow my gut. And he said, without a shadow of a doubt, you should listen to your gut because it’s a combination of what your heart and your head is saying. And that always kind of stuck with me. So I agree with the gut piece there. So final question, and I’m most excited for this question. This is actually a question from one of our moms. And she wanted to know based on your knowledge and your area of expertise, what are the top three evidence based research backed things a mother can do to improve her life? And on the flip side, what is one thing people always say we should worry about that in actuality we really shouldn’t concern ourselves with. So the three things that, you know, we could do to improve our life. And the one thing we probably don’t need to concern ourselves with.

 

Emily Chaffee 

I’m going to jump in first because I’m going to share the three that Kerry is going to say, because since she’s my dietician, I know exactly what she’s gonna say, because she has said them to me. But sleep, good quality food, and you know, good quality food looks however it looks for you. And then some sort of movement, I think, are the three things that really help. Sorry, Kerry, I know if those were the three you were gonna say. But I’ll let you share your three and then I can come back to my one while I think about it.

 

Kerry Jones 

Yeah, you’re right. Um, so I did word the one a little differently. So I’ll say it. So I said, managing stress. Which definitely could be again, like we’ve to all the things that we’ve talked about. So making sure that we’re taking care of ourselves diving into why that stress is happening, and getting enough sleep. And then I said, eating well, and moving our body. So Emily, hit the nail on the head.

 

Emily Chaffee 

I’m a good student, what can I say? But I think though, the one thing to kind of not worry, is like what other people say we should do. And it just, you know, no one knows what you should do. And I hate the word should, in general, if you don’t like sex in the city should have woulda COULDA, like my favorite sections to the quote, it’s always it’s not looking at anything that is about you. It’s what this external thing about what should be happening, and I just, I hate the word shield. So eliminating that from our repertoire should be, should be what we do. But there we go.

 

Kerry Jones 

I think you read my notes. Um, so to, again, reword it, I said, I think that we should not focus on perfection, and instead focus on progress. So I think we often get caught up in social media and think of all the things we should do, because this person’s doing it. But really, there’s no such thing as a perfect mom or a perfect person. They’re just giving you one perfect glimpse into their lives. So just do your best and do what’s best for you and your family. Because that is going to be the best option instead of aiming for some far fetched perfection that doesn’t exist.

 

Cindi 

Quick question for both of you. And then we want to go into some really fun, fast questions. But this one is a question regarding all that we’ve already talked about if there was a client that came to you, and they had some of the things that we were talking about, such as overwhelming stress, brain fog, let’s see inability to remember certain things. Perhaps your flags go up and you’re like, okay, they need hormones, or they need a certain Doctor, where do they start? Where would you refer them first, for example, often with our children, we’ll start with our pediatrician. And we’ll go there, and we’ll talk to them. But I’m just curious, if you did have a client that came to you experiencing what we’ve talked about, where would you start with them?

 

Kerry Jones 

So if a woman came to me and was saying that, then I would personally run the hormone test. So like we previously mentioned, I did Dutch test, which is a salivary and urinary test. And so I would want to start there, so I can really see what’s going on in their body. And if it red flags me that we need a referral to another specialist, then 100%, that’s where I would send them. But a lot of times it is making these slight tweaks to their lifestyle in terms of what they’re eating or how we’re sleeping or how we’re managing stress. And if we can do those small tweaks first, then that would be my goal instead of getting them on medication. But of course, if they do end up needing that then we’d refer out to OBGYN or someone else that would be better suited.

 

Emily Chaffee 

My answer is pretty similar to that. But I also like the idea of taking before you necessarily have a first step, kind of taking a step back and reevaluating and like spending a week looking at your quality of sleep, your quality of eating, quality of life, everything. And then also, I think it’s a really big deal to talk about someone’s period and their menstrual cycle. And looking in, like, you know, what is this vital sign that we’re missing telling you about your body, and how your body is impacting, or you know, feeling all the things. So just kind of getting a good health intake and health background of somebody I think is really important. And so then you can run that Dutch test. And I think the Dutch test is great.

 

Crissy 

We have a follow up question from one of our moms, it’s a really great, great question. What would you tell moms with subpar health care, low income who need this type of support?

 

Kerry Jones 

So I definitely understand that income, so bear, this test unfortunately, isn’t covered by insurance, which I think is a really, really big shame. However, most insurances, thankfully these days, are covering what we would call preventive medicine. So they are typically covering nutrition counseling, and they are covering doctor’s visits, that we would need our therapists. So I think it’d be great that if you’re needing help in this area, reaching out to whoever you think would be the best person for you, and asking what is the coverage with my insurance. I know that with nutrition I can, I can’t speak on all the other practices and specialties. But nutrition, a lot of my clients have 100% coverage. So I would hope that that would be the case for her as well, so that it can take that burden off of her so that she has a greater access to the care.

 

Cindi 

Great, um, I’m going to move into short and sweet final questions, we’re going to only ask based on time about two of them. But we’d like to know, and I’m not going to direct this to anyone, but I want you to just jump in. What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

 

Emily Chaffee 

When I was 17, I did a NOLS course. And we actually went mountaineering, and like ice climbing, and we slept on snow for 25 out of 30 nights. And it was terrifying. And then I got home and I was like, Yeah, I did that. And then I went to college in Colorado, and I was like, I can definitely leave North Carolina and it just gave me so much confidence that I can do hard things. And that kind of has resonated with me when something feels really terrifying. I’m like, I was in a crevasse like I can handle a stressful email.

 

Cindi 

Wow, what was that called?

 

Emily Chaffee 

A NOLS course National Outdoor Leadership School. It was terrifying. At the time it was too scary. But when I was done, I was like, Okay, check that box, never again. Okay.

 

Cindi 

Kerry, do you have anything?

 

Kerry Jones 

Well, hers is much more daring than what you’re like, writing? Um, so I was gonna say, I traveled to Costa Rica, and I don’t speak Spanish and I didn’t know anyone there. So I thought that was daring. Um, but Emily, totally wins.

 

Cindi 

No, you got out of your comfort zone. That’s important.

 

Emily Chaffee 

Yeah, that’s, and that’s the thing you got out of your comfort zone. And I think that’s what makes it Darrin, like, whatever your comfort zone is. It’s young, dumb.

 

Cindi 

There’s so much I want to ask you both. I have to narrow it down. Uh, what advice would you give your younger self? I love this question.

 

Kerry Jones 

I would tell younger Kerry not to worry as much about what people think. I think especially when we’re like teenager, young adults, we get really caught up in what everyone thinks of us. And I know for me personally, that caused me to kind of suppress myself and my personality a little bit and so I would love to tell my younger self not to worry about it and to just be yourself.

 

Emily Chaffee 

Yeah, our notes were the same because that was mine.

 

Cindi 

You guys know each other, don’t you? Yeah.

 

Emily Chaffee 

Just a little bit. But yeah, definitely not worrying about what other people thought specifically. Like if that boy liked me. That was always I was felt really sad when like he didn’t like me back and That was so dumb because it didn’t matter at all.

 

Cindi 

Yeah, yeah. Okay. Last one, real quick. What are you watching or reading? Give her fans something to do.

 

Emily Chaffee 

I’m watching Inventing Anna on Netflix about Anna Sorkin or Anna dalvey, or whatever her name is. It’s very fun and very, very weird.

 

Cindi 

Are you reading anything?

 

Emily Chaffee 

I’m just my emails, right? I know why. And that’s why I muted myself and didn’t want to share that one.

 

Kerry Jones 

I was just talking to somebody about that show earlier. This is my sign that I need to start watching it. I am currently watching This Is Us and I just finished reading the midnight library. It’s very good if anyone hasn’t read it. 

 

Cindi 

And we’ll definitely put it in the show notes, everyone. Well, thank you very much for being with us and sharing your time with us. It means a lot. And we are so grateful for all that you do for the community and for HER Health Collective. Thanks so much.

HER Health Collective hosts four roundtables each year, in an effort to bring together our experts and dive deep into the topics that matter to moms the most. We have found that these roundtables are often our most well-liked episodes.

For more information on each panelist, please see their individual webpage under the HER Experts dropdown.

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