Category Archives: Features

Baby butt

The confessions of a naked mum

I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend.Chest of a young woman

We were talking about how quickly the kids are growing up and how we both wished we could hold those tiny bundles in our arms again.

Then, the subject turned to puberty and she happened to say;

‘I haven’t seen my son naked since he was 7 years old.’

Aghast, I looked at her and said but how do you know if everything is all ok ‘down there?’

I see both my sons naked all the time, coming out of the shower, on the loo, sneaking  downstairs both hands in the biscuit tin and getting dressed in the morning.

There is nothing more natural than them seeing me naked too, granted I am not an exhibionist nor will you see me parading in front of the car cleaner or stripping off running free spirited into the sea.

I’m not ashamed to say that ‘nakedness rules in our house.’

Following that conversation with my friend, I asked my 15 year old son what he thought about seeing me naked and how he felt about me seeing him.

He was quick to retort: “Mum it just doesn’t bother me, so what if I see you butt naked it doesn’t really register that my mum’s naked. I dont see what the big deal is.”

Baby butt

I thought about my childhood, shared with a younger brother and I wondered if ‘nakedness’ has anything to do with mixed siblings in the household?

I do remember that from about 13-14 years I wanted privacy and I didn’t walk around in the nude especially not in front of my father.

Likewise, he extended the same courtesy to me. He would never barge into my bedroom or bathroom without knocking first.

There was seemingly an unwritten rule that said you are a teenager so going naked is probably not the right thing to do.

I freely admit that whilst I can sunbathe topless in front of strangers and friends I could never show my  top half to my own father, even though he is one half of me.

Do you go naked in front of your children?

My upbringing has fostered a good sense of self worth and yet this is a contradiction because when I look at my body it is with a reluctant acceptance of ageing.

I do not recall my mother promoting a good or bad body image, a body is a body and that was it.

As a gymnast I trained as hard as I could and my body was fit and strong but there were constant reminders from coaches about the importance of weight.

I remember on one occasion a coach saying to me how strong I was and that I was short and stumpy, a perfect gymnastic physique.

In my head I wanted to be tall, lean and skinny and so his comments cut me like a knife.

Not only were they way off base but he single handedly made me foster an unrealistic body image of myself that has stayed with me.

All I could see was a blob in front of the mirror.

In reality I had a fantastic physique and recently when my god-mother showed photos of me when I was 14, it came as a surprise that I wasn’t the blob I had become so familiar with in the mirror.

But I had spent the last 30+ years of my life convinced that I was.

How a few inapproriate words can change the perception of your own body image!

I believe that might be why I’ve never made any rules about the boys being naked or made them feel uncomfortable.

Nudity is healthy and very natural and growing up unashamed of being seen naked with all your bodily imperfections raises uninhibited children who have a realistic body image.

When I researched the idea for this post opinions made by people, posted on forums, blogs and articles all had a view on nudity ranging from it being perverted to being ‘au naturale’.

I am sure that at some point my sons will cover up and will lock the bathroom door for feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Likewise, they may ask me to do the same, but until then I see no need to close the door whilst I undress or cover up when I walk along the upstairs landing to put my clothes in the linen basket.

As far as I’m concerned they will make that decision, not me.

What do you think?


The age of loneliness

If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before and people continue to disappoint them. Jodie Piccoult, My Sister’s Keeper.

I met with some friends recently for afternoon tea, a rare occasion where I forgave myself for leaving the office for a couple of hours to catch up with gossip and have a laugh. loneliness

After we said our goodbyes I experienced a real ‘low’ as I walked back to the car I couldn’t understand how after a couple of hours talking about kids, work, life and husbands and having a good old laugh, why I had a pit in the bottom of my stomach.

Then by sheer coincidence I stumbled upon an interesting article about a woman of 48 years married with two young children who described her feelings of loneliness.

I could relate to this woman entirely. They had recently moved house to a new location, had left old friends behind and this was clearly affecting her well being.

And that is when I realised that what I was experiencing were symptoms of loneliness.

As a working mother of two boys, the extra school activities and everything else in between, there is little time for socialising with friends, conversations are online using Facebook or Whatsapp and not much face to face time.


How can you be lonely in a society that is 24/7, always  connected, always on.

You are only three steps away from someone you know.

Are these relationships just acquaintances rather than real friends?

If you have a best friend are you more likely to share personal stuff with them face to face rather than on facebook?

The more I thought about this the more I became aware of the difference between being lonely and being alone.

I hardly consider myself alone, I have a family, husband and friends but I do admit to experiencing feelings of loneliness.

Married with a family doesn’t make you immune to loneliness.

Conversation with your partner usually takes the form of how the working day was, money issues, holiday planning, kids well-being, schooling, ideas, dreams.

This type of conversation is mostly transactional that is a series of daily conversational transactions. For example, can you pick up some milk, I’m doing the shopping thursday night, John has a dental appointment on friday.

Or, focused exclusively on parenting leaving little time for talking about how you are feeling. Drought

Many of us are connected socially in the online world but five million of us don’t have close friends according to Relate.

In a study by YouGov commissioned by Relate, 1 in 10 said they had no close friendships, 64% of those with children had daily contact with their sons and daughters, only a quarter kept in daily contact with a parent.

The study found that there was more contact with the boss and work colleagues than friends and family and in spite of an increase in the use of email and mobile phones, 1 in 4 said they had no real friends at work.

Loneliness affects many of us at one time or another and the “Lonely Society” survey by the mental health foundation in 2010 found that 22% of those surveyed (2,256) never feel lonely with 11% or 1 in 10 said they felt lonely often.

Four in ten or 42% felt depressed because they felt alone. Over 48% of those people surveyed felt that society is getting lonelier

When I was a fourteen year old, I can recall befriending a new girl who had recently moved along way from her former Yorkshire home.

I was given the job of looking after her as she became acquainted with her new school and we got on right from the outset.

I was protective of her when she was mocked by others for her strong Yorkshire accent and generally made sure she settled in okay.

We had the same interests – boys, music and sport and went everywhere together and were almost inseparable.

Saturdays were spent at her mum’s flat where we would talk and share our hopes for the future; we would listen to the bee gees and declared that we would be best friends forever.

Then after a year or so, something changed and another school friend started to muscle in on our friendship. It wasn’t done in a malicious or nasty way but I started to feel left out like an equation without the + sign.

Suddenly my best friend and our mutual friend were together and I was cast aside like an old shoe.

I can still recall a history lesson when the ‘other friend’ said to me I hope you don’t mind me being friends with Andrea we’ve become good mates, you can still be our friend.

At that moment I felt slighted, hurt, dumbfounded. I wasn’t aware that I had done anything to upset my best friend. I did ask her if I had done something wrong but she responded with ‘not a thing’.

She went onto say that she had become good friends with Rita.

There was no animosity or hate at all and I was told that ‘two could be three.’

But it didn’t feel the same and then I found out that Rita would often be invited somewhere without an invitation extended to me so I left feeling hurt and dejected.

I can remember that hurt and sharing my feelings with my mum that Andrea and I were no longer best friends.

At that age friendships are transient, they come and go, this week you are top of the pile the next cast out like a leper until the next amazing thing you are seen doing and then you are cool again.

That’s growing up.

But I didn’t realise until I walked out of the coffee shop just how much I missed real friendships.

I’m talking about deep down tell all, through ‘sick and sin’ admit all best friend relationships.

I suspect that my experience of loss, insecurity and aloofness is the fallout from that lost friendship.

I have met many different people, in life and work, made many friends and acquaintances some have come and gone.

My Italian grandmother told me that in life you can count the number of friends you have on one hand, the people who stick by you through thick and thin, those you can turn to in the hour of need and who will not be angry if you don’t speak with them from one week to the next.

Research shows that lonely people share certain characteristics like loss, trauma, negative or critical parenting.

Loneliness brings feelings of anger, sadness, depression, worthlessness all of which have a negative impact on our health.

As we navigate through life we lose friends and make new ones, sometimes we choose to or want to be alone, few of us have escaped the pain of loneliness but, it is part of the experience of growing up.

Our relationships begin, change and end from being an infant to a toddler who experiences separation anxiety.

As children we try to be part of the ‘in crowd’ by making many friends and trying to get acceptance amongst our peers.

Then, as teenagers and the prospect of first love, good or bad and finally into adulthood our social relationships change and shift.

Relationships ebb and flow like the tide and so does loneliness but true friendship endures like a fine wine.





The diary of a frazzled holiday traveller or is that holiday travel madness

Holiday travel madnessWe are half an hour from supposedly getting on board our plane to head back to the UK and its the usual holiday travel madness.

I am asking myself as I look up at the flight departure board why have 4 flights arrived and are all set to leave at 12:00 midday so how does that work then?

New game, musical airplanes!

How are you going to get four flights off the ground at the same time, worrying don’t you think!

Now the announcer is shouting for all passengers to Liverpool to get to the front of the queue as the plane is ready to depart.

The public once again are at the brunt of bad communication regarding flight information.

The typical british holiday maker is on show for all to see.

Flip flops, shorts, crazy hats not one of them appear to a have any regard for their safety on a plane. A quick exit requires good robust trainers or shoes not flip flops, ideal if we happen to have an emergency landing on the sand!

They are hot and bothered, flustered and fed up they can’t go any faster through security control as they are reliant on the security men and women who are checking and frisking them!

Did I mention that there are only four security people in attendance to check and frisk 600 potential passengers groovy.

You are too scared to shout at the security people to get a move on for fear of being further frisked in an exploratory way if you get my drift especially as they are now all wearing rubber gloves.

It’s the power they wield over you they sense you are tense and in a hurry yet they couldn’t go any slower if they tried, but the voice inside your head is screaming get a move on.

There is another word I feel I could insert here but for those who abhor swearing I’ll keep it clean.

Now on the plane, the flight attendants shout at you with a smile on their faces and tell you to get a move on, find your seat and sit down as “we will miss our flight slot” as if it was your fault you single handedly caused the plane to be delayed.

Having established myself in the seat, I get stuck with the proverbial passenger from hell.

He looks alright until he flashes his beaming “I had my teeth whitened especially for my holiday so I can pick up a bird and get laid” and he’s wearing flip flops too with feet that look like they’ve been through a mincer then I then get the story of his holiday.

I shut up as I feign minimal interest with a faint smile as he rattles on about his holiday exploits.

He looks at my ipad and ‘says is that an ipad,’ no it’s a toaster I feel like saying what the heck do you think it is.

In front of me I have a family of 6, no I mean 6 kids and 2 adults they are the kids from hell, 6 teenagers both boys who have clearly OD’d on coke and mini cheddars mega super-sized pack who are shouting at each other whilst mum is doing her best to calm her clan down.

How do you get time to have 6 kids, I barely have time to manage 2 let alone 6 of the smiling monsters.

One boy decides to literally climb over me to get to his seat.Holiday madness

Horrified at the thought that I’m going to be saddled with one of these monsters on a two and half hour flight, I glare at the mother, she turns to look at me, smiles and it’s the smile between two women who are unwittingly bonded through the virtue of being mothers. It is the look that says sorry and I know that you know how I feel!

Thankfully I breathe a sigh of relief when I discover the boy monster is actually sitting in the wrong seat.

In the midst of all the shenanigans his lordship my beloved husband whom I might add is sitting with our boys in the next aisle seat thinks it’s sooo funny he’s wetting himself with laughter as its always me that appears to get the short straw.

But guess what I’ll have the last laugh because the passenger from hell seated next to me has alluded to the fact that he doesn’t like flying so when we hit clear air turbulence over the channel I’ll be the one screaming WE’RE GOING DOWN BRACE, BRACE!

Ode to the joy of travelling!

See you in the UK. That’ll be next week then!


social media addiction

Social media addiction. Do we need it or can we live with out it?

social media addiction
Social networking accounts for 25% of the time we spend online

Imagine a world without smart-phones, mobile phones, computers and laptops, social media, ipod, televisions.

24 hours without any distractions from any of the aforementioned gadgets.

No emailing, no SMSing, texting, internet access, no Facebook, twitter, linkedin, pinterest, no music or news media.

A utopian ideal?

For some maybe but for many the reality has resulted in an over-dependency on the internet and social media for staying in touch with friends, keeping up to date with news items and checking to see what is going on in the social universe.

The very name implies to be social. Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. [Wikipedia]

Social media exists in a world that is digital where relationships are transient and superfluous where the individual is at the centre of a digital universe in which they reside.

It is a form of voyeurism, eavesdropping into another person’s world willing to share their daily tribulations. There is a compulsion to ‘check in’ and see what is going on with our ‘on line buddies’ in fact we rely on our smart phones for constant connection with the digital world.

Phone checking has become an unconscious compulsive behaviour a form of social media addiction. It feeds the need to be liked, tagged, mentioned, favourited the downside is that social media can be a lonely place to be.

Social media platforms have now become vehicles for expressing banal to deeply depraved thoughts.

In May 2010 the Mental Health Foundation released a report called ‘The Lonely Society’. 53% of 18-34 year olds had felt depressed because of loneliness compared with 32% of people over 55. Nearly a third of young people said they spent too much time communicating on line and not enough in person.

This is prevalent amongst the teenage generation where being tagged in an album ostracises a teenager leaving them feeling bereft and worthless.

Posting updates enables a person to post what they are doing, where they are going, what they ate for breakfast but is also a vehicle to inflate ones self-worth.

Social media gives a person the opportunity to share moods, events, ideas, celebrations and intimate personal details about oneself whether good or bad. It allows the individual to promote self-esteem, self-love and self-regard without fear or reproachment.

It also gives the individual the feeling that they matter to this world, that the connections they have are interested in them as a human being and provides a platform to share details that they may not share openly in conversation.

The competition for internet popularity means there is a shameless fixation on the number of ‘likes’, views, shares and +’s which in turn encourages narcissistic type behaviour whereby bragging and showing off are the mainstream in order to inflate a deflated ego.

social media addiction
Social networking accounts for 25% of our time spent on line

Are our digital friends real friends and people that we truly wish to be connected to so we can share our everyday life experiences or are they connections made only in a digital world?

Social media platforms give individuals the opportunity to get close to companies, people, brands, businesses and celebrities.

People are more connected than ever before and social networks facilitate the way people learn, communicate and interact with each other.

In the UK britons now send on average 200 texts a month compared to 70 in 2006. Calls from fixed landlines have fallen by 10 per cent to 116 billion minutes in 2011 along with mobile phone calls falling from 125 billion minutes to 124 billion minutes.

The UK is texting more than it is talking.

In the same year more than 150 billion texts were sent compared to only 50 billion in 2006. (Ofcom)

Text based communications are usurping traditional phone calls or meeting face to face. This is attributed to the demands of peoples modern lifestyle and fast track living making social media very appealing on a variety of different levels.

The other day I was in London and I watched a young mother trip over along with her pram and baby in toe. She was busy looking at her smart phone unaware of the trip hazard that lay before her on the pavement.

I went to help her and was obviously concerned about her baby who if hadn’t been strapped in could have fallen onto the pavement.

I said coyly, ‘be careful, they’ve been known to kill you, you know’ referring to the iphone she held in her right hand cupped to her right ear.

She was totally unaware of anything or anybody around her because she was so absorbed with whatever she was reading or doing on her mobile phone.

Would we rather lose our connection to the real world than our connection to our on line world?

Is the need to be socially connected and online inherent in the way we live and interact as human beings?

Does being socially connected reduce or increase our social insecurity?

Has social media addiction made us more anti-social?

It use to be considered rude to answer your phone when you were in the company of friends or worse at a business meeting. Now in business it is the accepted norm to text and send emails whilst in meetings.

Social media allows us to be connected to people without intimacy or any real association.

I see people on facebook with 1,000+ friends and I view this cynically. I may have many acquaintances that I’m connected to, share statuses with however they are not my best friends but people I know through school or other encounters.

I would not be sharing my innermost feelings in my status updates but more like a casual hi, yes the weather is great, or did you see last night…

The paradox of the networking sites like google+, facebook and twitter has lessened the need to ‘meet up’ and have a physical interaction. In reality they are digital interactions with digital connections and not human meaningful interactions.

It is easier to keep people at an emotional distance and ‘friending’, ‘liking’, texting and tweeting in 140 characters or less only reinforces that distance when picking up the telephone or meeting face to face allows the other person to become engaged and really get to know us.

Sherry Turkle, MIT Professor and author of “Alone Together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other” suggests that social media gives the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.

We are getting use to being alone ‘together’.

At breakfast time it’s common to find working couples checking in on what’s arrived in the inbox, going on to Facebook to up date statuses or dropping a quick tweet whether its business related or personal.

Recently on holiday we shared a few days with friends their eldest daughter Rebecca, 19 was with us but not really ‘there’ happily texting updating her status on facebook and twitter.

I asked her what makes it so compelling for her generation to be on social media all the time.

FOMO fear of missing out on what’s going on in her world and a great way to share updates and photos with friends.

I asked her if she felt she was a social media addict: ‘no its just what we do its the only way we stay in touch with friends and now we’ve all gone our separate ways to University, employment its the only way’.

Rebecca is a by product of our digitally obsessed world with an addiction to technology that is so beguiling that it is almost impossible to stop.

A generation of computer users capable of finding any information on google in less than a minute but incapable of being able to gather and research using traditional methods like books or libraries.

Addiction by its very name implies a total and utter reliance on something we can’t live without – drugs, gambling, sex or alcohol. The idea that social media addiction exists sounds extreme and yet a study conducted by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda and students from the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism University of Maryland, USA found just that.

In 2010 when the research was undertaken, 200 students were asked to abstain from using any form of media for 24 hours.

The responses ranged from being addicted, isolated and lonely, comments included ‘texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort’, ‘being unable to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable’.

I admit to doing the same thing. My husband said to me when we were out one night on holiday in Spain: ‘I’m really enjoying the company of your smart phone’.

In defence my interest is largely driven by business rather than updating my own personal statuses and is easy to do in the evenings when I have some time.

Has social media made us more isolated or are we just a by product of technology?

The pace of technology has made it easy for us to be connected on line rather than meeting up physically.

Turkle makes the point ‘that with technology we can exist among a group of friends on facebook yet feel lonely because we are not known by them’.

Turkle argues that isolation was always there and technology has merely enhanced it.

Rebecca and many of her peers have developed an unhealthy relationship with social media. Like many compulsive behaviours people who engage in addictive behaviours find initial pleasure only later to develop an all consuming dependence.

My generation have had to learn how to work with this technology and how to make best use of it. We’ve become hooked to social media too we are engulfed by mass communication bombarded with texts and emails on a daily basis.

When we hear the ping that shows there is a new message we jump to attention like its all too important. We automatically respond without thinking.

It’s commonplace to be in the playground and see parents avidly looking at their phones, texting, checking in with little or no human conversation or interaction.

Perhaps it’s time to turn off, tune in and drop out for an hour a day and maybe regain some sanity.

What do think?

How do you manage your social media activity?

What about your teenagers? How do you manage the time they spend on social media platforms?

Share with us your view how you manage your time to?

If you think you are a social media addict here’s a great fun article to read by Jacky Tan.

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Social anxiety disorder – are you S.A.D?


People who have social anxiety disorder have an irrational fear of being in the company of people, being watched, judged and are fearful of embarrassing and humiliating themselves by doing or saying something which causes acute anxiety and fear.

It is the third most common psychiatric disorder after depression and alcohol abuse and yet very little is known about the disorder and its negative affect on a person’s social well-being.

The anxiety and discomfort associated with SAD become so acute that people simply can’t perform the daily functions we take for granted like buying a newspaper, shopping in a supermarket or going to a restaurant with friends.

Social anxiety disorder or SAD is the subset of anthropophobia a generalised term used to cover a wide range of anxiety related issues such as a person who is paranoiac of being harmed or of being judged for the way they look. (Body dysmorphic disorder)

Sufferers with the disorder are worried about what will happen when they interact with people socially and their concerns are centred around how people view and judge them.

In fact the anxiety can be so extreme it can affect a person mentally and physiologically.

Jo, 52 years of age has struggled with the condition from childhood: “I knew these feelings I was experiencing weren’t normal. If I was invited to a children’s party to their house after school straightaway I had an automatic reaction of panic I was very anxious and frightened. I was terrified in case they noticed how nervous I was. I was frightened to death that I would stand out for all the wrong reasons”.

SAD is actually more common than you might think.

Surveys conducted in the U.S found that in a 12 month period 7% of people had SAD.

What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety affects 7% of people.

Over a lifetime it’s more like 12% of people who will experience the symptoms associated with SAD.

Professor Clark Founder of the Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma at Kings College London and University of Oxford says “that SAD in the general community tends to be more common in women, yet in the clinics he oversees, the prevalence of SAD is similar in men and women.”

What are the symptoms of SAD and how do they differ to shyness?

There are some marked differences between shyness and SAD and this relates to the severity and longevity of the symptoms that are experienced by the individual.

Shy people tend to be uneasy in social situations and Princess Diana was a classic example of a shy and reserved person. People with SAD  are extremely anxious in social situations.

Emotional symptoms include:-

  • an irrational, intense fear of a particular situation even before the event may have taken place
  • fear of an up and coming event weeks in advance
  • fear of being judged by others
  • worry of being embarrassed or humiliated
  • fear that people will notice your anxiety

Physical symptoms include:-

  • profuse sweating and blushing
  • rapid heart beat
  • trembling hands

In Jo’s case her symptoms range from stomach turning, heart palpitations, hot and sweaty, fear and panic.

“Until recently I couldn’t even answer the front door bell without experiencing all of the above symptoms, by the time I had calmed down and answered the door the person had long gone.”

Catriona, 47 years has recently been diagnosed with SAD. For her it was the relief of finally giving her illness a label.

“I hate labels but in this case having experienced the complete and utter terror of being in social situations even with family and friends, it was a relief to find out that I wasn’t the only one with SAD.”

For so many years I couldn’t understand why I dreaded friends or family visiting the home, why I would shake when I knew we were going out.

When friends and family visited I was obsessed with making sure the meal was perfect, the home clean and tidy, at the same time I felt sick and anxious and I would physically shake. It was like I was being judged in a competition. The relief I use to feel when people left the house was huge.

It didn’t stop there if I go shopping and I see someone I know, I run and hide behind the veg counter or disappear down an aisle so I can’t be spotted or have to engage in any conversation, often they are people I know. As for any social invitation my heart rate increases and I am anxious and sweaty.”

How extreme can SAD become?

Jo tried to take her own life, “I was suicidal in fact I took an overdose and ended up being hospitalised. At the time I was working as a receptionist in a Dr’s surgery. The whole environment pushed me to the limit of coping. It was a small working area and I felt trapped.”

Jo and Catriona know that their anxiety is out of proportion with the situation they are experiencing but for SAD sufferers its the norm and they are unable to take control of the anxiety and feelings of fear.

For Catriona, “Its frustrating because you look at the situation and you tell yourself that wasn’t so bad but the fear and anxiety is overwhelming. Afterwards I am physically exhausted.”

When?What causes SAD?

Professor Clark’s observations of adults being treated with the disorder concludes that it starts in childhood or adolescence. About half of the people who come forward for treatment say it started before the age of 13.

He points out, “In adulthood its quite a long time before its recognised and in the clinic the average age of adults coming forward for treatment is 33 years. It’s almost 2o years before people seek treatment and a very long time for people to be living with the problem.”

The evidence would seem to confirm this.

Jo recalls: “I was very clingy as a child and was terrified of being separated from my mum. But it wasn’t until I was 17 when I visited the Dr to talk about my anxiety. I was referred to a local psychiatric hospital but I couldn’t relate to the psychologist. It was a good ten years before I was referred again.”

Can a traumatic event trigger SAD or are we just born with this condition?

Research lead by Professor Clark at the University of Oxford Department for Experimental Psychology suggests that there isn’t a single cause but a combination of social experiences that a person has that could makes them pre-disposed to SAD.

The loss of Jo’s mother when she was a teenager made her anxiety worse but it wasn’t the main trigger.

Jo explains “my father had anxiety attacks so we rarely had people around the house because dad didn’t like it. I possibly think its genetic as I inherited the same characteristics.”

A contributory factor that affected Catriona was a specific event in her teenage years, ‘”I was only 14 years old and a good athlete, a coach at the athletics club I trained at happened to remark one day that I was chunky and strong and I interpreted that as big and fat.
Far from being fat or big, it seemed to trigger a vicious cycle of making me conscious of my weight and how I behaved in the company of people.
Even now I am so very self conscious being in social situations and of people looking at me it feels like I’m being judged, its a horrible feeling.”

Professor Clark suggests that parental modelling such as an overbearing or critical parent who is controlling and over protective, a child being bullied or teased at school, parent relocation resulting in a child losing friends and changing school, finding it difficult to fit in and being shy and withdrawn as a child are some of the other factors that increase the likelihood of SAD in a person.

There is also a genetic vulnerability that puts a person at a higher risk to depression, anxiety and SAD.

Although there are no distinct personality types that pre-dispose someone to being affected by SAD, the characteristics of the disorder include avoidant personality types and people who are fearful of finding themselves in socially challenging situations that might cause humiliation.

SAD sufferers tend to set the bar very high for themselves because it’s an issue of performance and how they are judged by others around them. They believe they should have many interests so they aren’t perceived as boring, they want to be socially ept, clever and fluent in conversation.

This makes it even harder for someone with SAD because the fear of humiliation and failure is greater whereas for most of us if we are inept in a social situation or aren’t as fluent or confident we don’t necessarily feel a failure.

How is S.A.D diagnosed and treated?

One of the reasons SAD is not diagnosed or recognised by general practitioners is because the sufferer may be reluctant to talk about it with their GP and are unaware that treatment is available.

In the last decade more research on the disorder and available treatments has proven fruitful.

SAD was first recognised as a medical condition in the 1960’s yet there is still much about the disorder we don’t know and Dr Clark says “we still think it is seriously under recognised by primary care and there are several reasons for that.”

Many people have lived with the condition for as as long as they can remember they’ve always been shy since childhood they assume that it’s a characteristic of their personality rather than a treatable condition and therefore are less likely to bring it up with the GP.

Diagnosis of the condition becomes more complex as many people who have SAD are likely to have depression or generalised anxiety not attributed to a specific disorder.

GP’s may not recognise the symptoms of SAD because a person feeling hopeless, frustrated, anxious is more likely to be treated for depression rather than examining the underlying causes.

The treatment of SAD is by a combination of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and medication.

Psychological treatments like CBT focus on SAD in the individual. For a long time it was widely believed that treatment in a group setting was more productive allowing the individual to share personal experiences and participate in practical exercises.

Medication can be prescribed in the form of SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and benefit people in the short term but CBT is highly effective in the long term and the preferred choice for SAD sufferers.

At the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology, Professor Clark and his team are developing on line virtual therapy treatments for SAD and other related disorders. It is an internet version of face to face therapy where the recipient manages the process of getting better in their own time.

SAD is a life long disorder and many people who receive treatment whether CBT, medication or a combination of both do recover but it depends on the person. In Professor Clark’s experience treatment is a great help but for some sufferers they are able to manage their condition much better but the fear is still present.

Other sufferers report that life has changed, they can do their job and they are accepting of their limitations.

In Jo’s case, “I would like to get a job, travel, meet people and do normal things. I’ve not really had a life up until now. This is not a life choice, not something I’ve chosen to be, I think I’ve paid a big price for it.”

As Professor Clark’s explains, ‘we are aiming to help people discover that they can be accepted for who they are and not what they are’.

For more information, help and advice you can visit

or call their helpline on: 08444-775774

additional information can also be found at

The Centre for anxiety disorders and trauma Kings College London







Is the menopause a taboo subject?

menopause and its affect on women
The menopause represents an opportunity for a woman to reinvent herself or does it just mean ‘getting old’.

Why does the mere mention of the word “menopause” make grown women head for the rafters and hide for fear of being looked at as some kind of prehistoric bird, excuse the pun.

On a recent working day broken up by the quiet interlude of a coffee morning, a girlfriend invited me around to her home along with several other women to view her recent house renovation and extension.

Following the grand tour, coffee was taken in her beautiful new garden room.

One of the ladies deep in conversation with another happened to say, “of course all this has changed since I started the menopause”.

The word “menopause” hung in the air like a thick smog.

Similarly when my then 3 year old decided to shout out the word  va-gi-na, va-gi-na’ on a flight to Spain much to the amusement of the passengers.

Everyone looked at each other except me who replied very matter of factly ‘ I know exactly what you mean.’

The ladies, I can say authoritatively are between 49 – 54 years respectively so I am pretty confident that with the exception of our host are well into the menopause.

Astonishingly, it would appear the “M” word is not being acknowledged by women.

The menopause is a significant life event that affects all women.

Women represent almost half the labour force and over 3.5 million are aged 50 and over and yet it is seldom recognised as a major challenge for women.

In her study, “Women’s Experience of Working Through The Menopause” Amanda Griffiths of the University Of Nottingham showed that 33% of women interviewed did view the menopause as a private matter and not something one talked about. 84% agreed that the menopause was a natural life stage and and not a medical disorder and 29% felt that the menopause was a sign of feeling less attractive. [Findings based on a study conducted in menopausal women in the workplace]

The menopause brings with it searing clarity that women aren’t getting any younger.

It can impact a womans self-esteem, self-confidence and make women question their identity.

The study also found that ‘the end of fertility and menstruation were flagged by some as a positive aspect of the menopause. For others, it presented challenges and was viewed as a sign of becoming older, feeling less attractive, not feeling oneself and worrying about appearance’.

The ‘change’ is not really talked about openly, it’s not surprising that women aren’t exactly embracing the “menopause” with open arms.

Natural menopause takes place when the ovaries become unable to produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Ovaries fail to produce the two hormones naturally when there are few egg cells remaining. Eggs are present before birth and are reduced through puberty and there is a rapid decline from 40 onwards. Menopause means the last menstrual period. Periods stop because of the low levels of oestrogen and progesterone which stop stimulating the lining of the womb in the normal cycle.

This isn’t helped by the way the menopause is portrayed in the media. Tracey Emin reportedly describes her experience of the menopause as a nightmare, akin to the beginning of death.

Anne, 56 views the menopause as a very positive experience she says; ‘I had relatively trouble free periods. I noticed my periods becoming irregular and by mid summer I experienced hot flushes which lasted two months, then they stopped. I didn’t associate that the symptoms might be the start of the menopause.

Six months later it started full swing with the hot flushes I then realised that it must be the menopause.

I’m lucky apart from the hot flushes or power surges as the family affectionately refer to them and the restless nights I am managing it. The menopause is something I have no control over. It’s part of being a woman and there is nothing I can do to control it.’

Women are bombarded with fabulous looking celebrity women in their late 40’s and early 50’s like Elle Macpherson, 48 wearing a skimpy bikini on the beach, looking great and quite possibly peri-menopausal.

This only reinforces the feelings women have as they approach middle age – weakening self confidence, insecurity and vulnerability.

At the other extreme are media pictures of a youth obsessed sexualised culture where women are in pursuit of eternal artificially created beauty.

The evidence from the study would suggest that women are finding the transition to middle-age daunting, not only is the change a physical one but a psychological process too. The person they once identified with pre-menopause is not the same woman post-menopause.

Could that be why women don’t view the menopause as something to be optimistic about because it means a reincarnation; a reinvention of oneself?

The onset of the menopause represents completion of motherhood. The children have grown and left home and women are left to face a new stage in their life.

It is a life changing moment an opportunity to make a woman feel reborn. In spite of this, the significance of the menopause is synonymous with a feeling that ‘life is over.’

menopausal symptoms
The joy of the menopause
Courtesy of

Kate reflects, ‘at 52 years you know your baby making days are over so there is a sense of sadness but would I want anymore children now, of course not. The menopause is the final stage in my reproductive cycle and I guess there is a sense of finality about that.’

Helen 58 years says, ‘it was hard to begin with and I thought that I could manage without any help but in the end I went on HRT, the best thing ever, although my husband use to find my HRT patches stuck to the shower wall occasionally. But it’s part of being a woman you have to accept it get over it and move on but I did feel like I was on my own when I was going through it.’

Peri-Menopause is the stage from the beginning of the menopausal symptoms to the post-menopause phase. Post-menopause is the time following the last period and is defined as more than 12 months with no periods in a woman whose ovaries are intact.

Women faced with the menopause have the daunting prospect of ageing to contend with too and although the majority of women probably wouldn’t want any more children it’s that inevitability that makes the menopause so final, so the ‘end.’

Typical symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, palpitations, insomnia, aching joints, headaches, mood swings, anxiety and irritability which are disruptive to the majority of womens lives.

Women require emotional support – sympathy, understanding and tolerance but unless women talk about the menopause discuss it openly and share how they feel then the menopause is likely to remain a ‘private’ or taboo subject.

The question that remains is how do we, as women change that perception?

What do you think?

Share your views in our comment box below and don’t forget to follow us on twitter, facebook and google+ and you can connect with us on linkedin and pinterest too.

The 7 Dwarfs of the menopause can be found at a fantastic fun look at menopausal women.




If Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus…

men are from mars women are from venus
If men are from mars and women are from venus then my husband is from pluto

then my husband is definitely from Pluto!

The infamous and definitive relationship guide written by John Gray dispells the myths that marriages can work successfully and harmoniously as long as communication works and is in the same language.

This is my version of why Men are from Mars and women are from venus and why men seem to have this amazing propensity to wind women up to cataclysmic rather than orgasmic heights!

My recent debacle on Monday night with my beloved compelled me to write my version on why I believe men are from another planet.

Here’s what happened on a recent Monday night!

After a long working day, picking up the children from School I look forward to Monday night’s because it is the only day we arrive home at 5PM, aka respectable time and it means there are only 4 days left of the working week or if you are a working mother like me then 6 days.

Big M my husband graciously does the weekly food shopping!

Yes, shock and horror I hear you say but he learned very early on in our relationship that if he wasn’t going to starve  he would have to do it.

Instead of me complaining how hideously expensive everything is and that he never goes shopping, I get the groans about the cost of food items and I don’t suffer the “you never buy this or that” so it suits both parties.

The prospect of fighting my way through the supermarket in search of is not my idea of fun.

I prefer a tooth extraction than to be subjected to women fighting over who got there first, in fact I get heart palpitations at the thought of shopping.

I should point out he loves doing it, he calls it his downtime?

Anyway back to the Monday in question.

We’ve been sampling these rather marvellous pre-made meat puddings from Waitrose.

Something that for once doesn’t require me making, preparing or doing anything.

Cooking bliss just pop in the oven for 35 minutes serve with potatoes and veggies.

At 6PM I get a call from Big M, he’s on the Motorway travelling back from London. I ask him “would you like me to put your dinner on?”

“No” came back the response “I don’t know what the traffic is going to be like on the M1. If the pud takes takes 35 minutes then I can take a shower when I get in and not have to rush”.

Simply put don’t put dinner into the oven until I get in.

I hear a shout from upstairs from one of my children that Dad has arrived home. As I was in the throes of baking a cake in went the meat pudding.

And this is what happened next…

Big M : Hi everyone, how’s your day been, where’s my dinner? – the inference was with a slightly sarcastic tone as he walked into the kitchen.

This is how I interpret the above comment:

Typical, I’ve been working all day and you haven’t got my dinner yet? 

Forget the fact I run a business, ferry the children back and forth to school, am responsible for their education, take them to their after school activities four times a week, remember who does what, when, where, cooks, washes, cleans, can’t claim ironing actually that one’s outsourced.

Provide emotional, physical and mental support to and in no particular order, children, husband, friends, co-workers, postman, milkman.

God I’m exhausted just writing this…

And the dinner wasn’t ready OMG call United Nations and sack me now as a wife mother and lover (last one debatable)

Me: Hi hun, dinner’s in the oven it will be another 30 minutes or so.

This is what I’m processing: you did tell me you complete a**e-h**e to wait to put the dinner on until you got home! Give me that bread knife now and don’t get any closer to me.. grrrr.

Big M: Great I come home from a long day and there’s no dinner. By the way what’s going with it.

Me: Nothing yet.

Now beginning to seethe with anger. Like he’s the only one that works around here and contributes to the greater good. 

Sometimes the connection between men and women just misses.
I sometimes feel I get a better response from my kitchen walls.


Big M: Great nice to know you care about me.

I’m thinking: Oh for god sake Mr “I am so emotionally dependent”, grow up.

Me: Thanks for that. How about peas?

Big M: What about Potatoes?

Me: Do you need potatoes? I thought you wanted to cut back on carbs aka waistline.

Big M: don’t appreciate the back handed comment, thanks a lot. Forget it I’ll get my own dinner sorted???

At this point I remain calm but in my head I’m screaming damned if I do damned if I don’t I try to look out for you and now I’m being criticised for referencing potatoes to your waistline. Next week you’ll be asking me to be strict with what you eat and drink, funny how the pendulum swings.

Clearly you’ve had a bad day! When have you ever gone without dinner and what’s got into you anyway. I’ve had a busy day too and if your not happy MOVE OUT.

We’ve gone from a peaceful and contented evening with kids upstairs doing homework to the potential outbreak of WW3 in my kitchen.

But then it goes from bad to worse because he says:

“What’s the matter with you why are you in a bad mood?

(Do I need semaphore to explain why I’m p****d off.)

All I asked is why dinner wasn’t ready… god do we have to repeat this again”.

And this is the cliff hanger because he then says:

“it must be the HRT tablets making you moody”.

Tell me why is that men have to reference how women react or behave to a set of pills we might be taking for an ailment or because we are MENOPAUSAL or, at that “special time of the month again”.

Funny because before Big M walked in I was feeling really rather happy!

Sending my man on a rocket back to Pluto
Can you go back from where you came from please?

Men we can’t live with them and we can’t live without them.

Until my next run in with Big M!

Do you have the same communication issues with your partner? Do you feel that sometimes you may as well be talking to the wall?

Please share your funny, sad, serious moments with us we would love to know.

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The enigma that was Margaret Thatcher

What kind of country are we that people have resorted to violence and destruction to celebrate the death of a former world statesman (and I use ‘man’ in the literal sense), prime minster and leading politician of a generation that saw the UK taken out of the grip of the unions and the wretchedness it found itself in and into the 20th century?

I am of course referring to the late and great Margaret Thatcher.

Loved her or loathed her, Margaret Thatcher stood firm when it came to her principles and beliefs.

Many disagreed with some of her policies and her beliefs but her skill and determination ensured that Britain became a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.

Margaret Thatcher was inherently british.

She was a passionate advocate for this country, she loved Britain, she wanted this country to be a world leader – enterprising, entrepreneurial, innovative and forward thinking, moreover she wanted nothing more than for Britain to stamp its authority on the international stage.

Thatcher worked tirelessly for the greatness of Britain.

She single handledly put the Grr back into Great Britain and made me very proud to be british, patriotic and more importantly she taught many the importance of democracy and how fortunate the english are to have the freedom that we so cherish, enjoy and take for granted in the country in which we live.

She had presence and could silence a room by banging her fist when she wanted people to listen. Running through her veins was absolute britishness.

She wanted the people to enjoy freedom like they had never experienced under previous governments. She was instrumental in what at first seemed ruthless policy making, unpopular decisions disliked by many including the Poll tax and the anti-union legislation changes that effectively dismantled the unions.

Leadership = making tough decisions that not everyone will agree.
Being a leader means making tough decisions that not everyone will agree with.

Being a leader means making tough decisions even if it results in unpopularity. That’s tough, life is tough.

Running government is no different to running a business. There are people to manage, decisions to be taken, ultimately someone makes the final choice based on facts, experience, knowledge and sheer gut instinct.

My parents taught me to make up my own mind when it came to politics neither parent wanted to ‘influence me’ but showed me that by reading, learning and understanding the views of the main parties it would help formulate whom I would vote for when I turned 18.

My father would always say no one party ever gets it right, in fact if we could take the best from all the leading political parties then an elected government might just achieve greater things collaboratively.

When the conservatives took power in 1979 I was still in my mid teens so my understanding of politics was like many teenagers confined to the annals of boredom.

Margaret Thatcher lead the country as the first woman among men.

In 1987, I recall my boss at the time who claimed to be a feminist commenting on how Mrs T was probably the worst thing that could happen for women’s liberation in the work place and society in general.

I looked at her quizzically and said, ‘you’re looking at this the wrong way. Mrs Thatcher has done the complete opposite, she has empowered women she has shown that by working hard, from a modest background, women can go on to achieve positions of power and status’.

There are 146 female members of parliament out of 650, 100 years ago there were none.

I continued by saying, ‘ I see Mrs Thatcher as a very positive role model for women, she’s an individualist something you keeping telling your employees to be. You don’t like her because you despise her politics and what she stands for. Yet you have set up your own successful business, have a jaguar parked outside because of Mrs Thatcher and not in spite of. That’s called free enterprise, giving women the opportunity to enjoy what is ‘capitalism’ which in turn embraces democracy and freedom’.

Because of Margaret Thatcher companies were able to thrive and prosper and there was genuine feeling of ‘togetherness’ in Britain. Some policies were divisive but only to those who didn’t or couldn’t understand what running a business entails and the mechanics of running the country are no different in principle.

Consumerism gained pace and Britain was mighty.

How sad is our country now?

A country faltering on the brink of collapse, a broken society so broken that I fear there is no return to better times. People who believe that hand outs are away of life and that society should pay them and not the other way around.

Great Britain seems to have disappeared in favour of the United Kingdom, united by what? The last time we were united as a nation was over the Falklands Islands in 1982.

The only time GB appears is on the back of a sportsman/woman’s vest representing England.

The grrr greatness has all but disappeared.

There are teenagers hell bent on self-destruction with no role models and no direction.

The poor still poor and the rich even richer.

The middle-class still the poorer for supporting and suffering in silence by being taxed to death and enabling the rest of society.

Yet here we are today, a coalition government capable of great things yet incapable of communicating and agreeing. Instead they bicker, fight, a constant war of words and no sign of firm leadership or decisiveness only derision.

Making tough decisions that affect the economy and get the UK back on firm footing are an absolute must for the greater good of society.

As a country we are less empowered now then we were back in the 70’s and 80’s.

The future looks grim and a strong leader who takes decisive action is what will drag the UK back out of its sorry state and place us back on the map as Great Britain once and for all.

The electorate deserve a strong leader, a decisive government and one that can protect its people and our sovereignty. It requires boldness and vision where the public can come together as one united nation believing that the government has its public at heart and is doing the very best it can.

My father, a second world war refugee says. ‘it takes a war to unite us and show the world how good we are as a nation’.

Whilst I don’t advocate or wish for a war I know I speak for many in wanting a little of what we had in the 80’s.

Margaret Thatcher may not have endeared herself to the masses but she represented Great Britain with belief and passion. She was an inspirational leader and the way she governed changed the face of Britain forever.

Loved or loathed, her strong governance will be sorely missed and sadly there is no one in her wake to follow in her worthy footsteps.

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What is pre-eclampsia – the silent killer

Pre-eclampsia in women
What is pre-eclampsia?

Downton Manor fans won’t easily forget the episode in which Lady Sybil gives birth to her daughter.

You may recall how delirious she became following the delivery of her baby. The doctor diagnosed pregnancy induced hyper-tension now commonly referred to as pre-eclampsia, or as the medical profession refer to it as eclampsia exhibiting delirium, visual disturbances and a critically high blood pressure.

In the aftermath of that scene I reflected poignantly. I know it was only fiction but the memories of my first born baby boy came flooding back.

In 1999 when I had my first baby, Oliver I  experienced severe pre-eclampsia which was eventually diagnosed in week 27 of my pregnancy but I suspected that the symptoms had already started as early as week 19.

In the April of 1999 and on the Dr’s advice my husband and I took a short trip to Hamburg to see friends and family.

When we arrived at the hotel early afternoon I had begun to notice very swollen legs and ankles, they were spongy to the touch, I had a slight headache but nothing else and after packing lay down for a couple of hours.  The swelling had dissipated and I put it down to a combination of flying and too long on my feet.

Symtoms of pre-eclampsia
Symptoms of pre-eclampsia – headaches, visual disturbances and sickness

We were due to meet the rest of the family in Hamburg the following day.

It was a lovely spring morning and as my husband’s family were so keen for us to see as much of the city as we could we did lots of walking, visited shops and all the usual things a tourist would do when visiting a big city.

Everything was in walking distance and being pregnant and completely unaware of the symptoms of pre-elcampsia again I experienced swelling in my legs and body. I looked like a little buddha and at only 5″2″ tall you know what I mean.

I wasn’t feeling great, my heart was pumping hard and I was angry with myself for always constantly pushing myself to the limit.

My husband and his family were taking a trip on a ferry around the river Alster which would be a tour lasting about an hour and a half.

I sat out the trip at a cafe overlooking the river with a cup of tea and a book to read my feet were raised and I had a good view of the people walking by.

And this is how it went on.

At my next antenatal check up none of the symptoms were visible.

I suspect the reason was that the waiting time to be seen was always a good hour and my body had the time to rest with feet up, my heart rate and blood pressure went back to almost normal and although my blood pressure was slightly elevated this was quite common at this stage of pregnancy.

I was nearing the end of my first year at de Montfort University studying for a post graduate business degree I was at the final hurdle and we had completed our last group assignment and presentation.

The group who had now become firm friends and I were due to celebrate the completion of our first year in a pub near the college.

I really wasn’t feeling too good and so I had to decline despite nice protestations. Ironically one of my friends said, the hospital is only around the corner so you don’t need to worry.

All I wanted to do was to drive home, lie down and sleep.

As the afternoon wore on I wasn’t getting any better and my husband called me surprised to find me at home. Then a strange conversation took place and I happened to mention to him that I hadn’t pee’d since the morning and had no desire to pee and I had had a mild but persistent headache.

As I was at week 33 I figured it was the usual condition of a heavily pregnant woman but I called the mid-wife out to see me that afternoon to be sure.

When she took my blood pressure she visibly paled in front of me, she asked me to move on to my right side to take the pressure off my heart presumably and then she checked my very spongy ankles and legs and was clearly worried.

She asked me how long I had been like this, since week 19-20 I said.

Calmly she explained that I had pre-eclampsia and that I would need to go to hospital immediately.

As luck would have it my husband walked through the front door so there was no need for the ambulance thank god. I quickly packed a bag and I was advised that someone would meet us at the maternity unit. I was admitted into Hospital all the checks were done and every-time I needed the toilet I had to pee into a container for measuring purposes to see how much output my body was creating.

Finally after 24 hours of no sleep and sharing a ward with 3 lovely women and one woman who snored so loudly and kept us all awake, I beckoned the registrar and insisted that I should be allowed to go home. There was no way I was staying in hospital for 4 weeks coupled with the fact I had a business to run as well.

He finally agreed to release me, on the proviso that I had to sign some medical forms (non-disclaimer) and that I had to come to the maternity unit every morning for a full check up. I agreed to this as I felt that if I was in my own home I would be calmer and relaxed than I would be if I was in hospital.

I was prescribed labetalol high blood pressure tablets to keep the blood pressure down and my urine was tested every day but nothing changed.

Despite me trying to manage the condition by telling myself to keep calm, resting on the sofa and sleeping my condition worsened and by 37 weeks of pregnancy my condition was so severe that I finally had to be admitted into the maternity unit.

June 12th 1999 was the evening the consultant and theatre nurses were fearful that I would go into an eclamptic shock.

My husband described me as a round baby elephant with skin so flushed and spongy (oedema the body retains fluid) due to protein in the urine (proteinuria) and the kidneys unable to process it.

My blood pressure was so high that my consultant explained that unless I was admitted into surgery NOW for a Caesarean section then in all likelihood the life of my unborn child and myself would be in serious jeopardy.

It was a traumatic time more for my husband and baby because I had reached that point of dis-association, aware of what was going on but unable to process my thoughts clearly and meaningfully. I recall the headache and visual disturbances, sickness and feeling so ill that I simply couldn’t process that my body had reached the point where a natural delivery was impossible.

I do recollect my insistence on having a local rather than general anaesthetic. I am very determined and was emphatic about wanting to be awake during the procedure. The surgeon was doubtful but something somewhere was urging me to remain awake even if it meant in a half lucid state.

By remaining awake during the operation I felt that at least I could focus on what was happening and maybe manage and control my body.

Following the birth of our beautiful baby boy I spent the next 36 hours in intensive care, 22 litres of fluid came out of my body via the catheter. I was in a semi-comotose state unable to speak clearly but aware of what was going on around me. My blood pressure was still critically high and my husband was advised that although our baby had been delivered there was a high probability I could go into an eclamptic shock.

I eventually came out of the danger zone and 4 days later developed a post-op infection that bought on a high fever which meant my stay in hospital amounted to 10 days.

When I finally arrive home with our new bundle of joy it felt such a relief.

I continued with high blood pressure tablets for some weeks later following the birth and was monitored by the Dr and mid-wife but I was left anaemic and tired. Suffice to say I lived to tell the tale.

In 2003 I had a second baby boy and again I experienced pre-eclampsia. This time my husband and I knew what to expect and I was better prepared both mentally and emotionally for what was to come.

My mid-wife, Dr and consultant were on hand to monitor and manage the pregnancy. It was no where near as traumatic as the first but I required an emergency Caesarean section to deliver him.

In fact giving birth to my second boy, Michael turned out to be easier and I am certain this was because I had more knowledge, I was more relaxed and I am sure this made management of the condition easier.

Facts about pre-eclampsia
Facts about pre-eclampsia

What is pre-eclampsia?

In 1999, research and information about pre-eclampsia was thin on the ground, sketchy at best and it was difficult to find any information about the condition.

Pre-eclampsia or preeclampsia is a medical condition characterised by high blood pressure and significant amounts of protein found in the urine of a pregnant woman. If left untreated, it can develop into eclampsia, the life-threatening occurrence of seizures during pregnancy.

Mild pre-eclampsia affects approximately 1 in 10 of all pregnancies making it the most common serious complication of pregnancy.

There are no specific determining factors that have been singled out as to the cause of pre-eclampsia but the placenta in pre-eclamptic pregnancies becomes defective.

The placenta supplies oxygen and nutrients to the baby via the mothers blood.

Pre-eclampsia may develop from 20 weeks’ gestation (it is considered early before 32 weeks) with the majority of cases occurring in the final trimester.

The nature of pre-eclampsia make it the ‘silent killer’ because in its earliest stages it is symptomless. Regular antenatal care is a prerequisite because the standard antenatal checks include monitoring of blood pressure and urine testing for protein (proteinuria) will raise a trigger that a mother requires additional antenatal monitoring.

Pre-eclampsia is characterised as a ‘multi-system disorder’ because it affects different parts of the body – liver, kidneys, cardio-vascular and clotting systems.

Mild pre-eclampsia affects up to 10% of first time pregnancies with severe pre-eclampsia affecting 1-2% of every 100 pregnancies.

Every year in the UK, 1,000 babies die as a result of the affects of pre-eclampsia largely as a consequence of premature delivery and 7 mothers die each year from the severity of the condition.

What are the causes and symptoms of pre-eclampsia?

There is no specific set of factors that make any one woman more susceptible to pre-eclampsia although there is a train of thought that suggests first time pregnancies, older women (over 35’s) younger mothers (under 2o) carrying twins, women with diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, women with a short stature and women with a BMI (body mass index) of more than 30.

Genetic factors may play apart since women whose mothers had pre-eclampsia may be pre-disposed to the condition. The condition originates in the placenta which links the mother to the baby.

The placenta needs a large supply of blood from the mother to sustain the growing baby and with pre-eclampsia the placenta can’t provide enough blood because the demands placed upon it are very high as is the case with carrying twins or simply that the arteries in the womb didn’t develop as they should have done when the placenta was being formed.

How is pre-eclampsia detected?

In the early stages pre-eclampsia can be symptomless and can only be detected with routine antenatal tests. If blood pressure is monitored and there is a noticeable rise coupled with the protein in the urine and body swelling of the face, hands, feet caused by fluid retention indicates its likely to be pre-eclampsia.

Blood pressure rises in the pregnant mother which affects the kidney function and waste products instead of being excreted in the urine accumulate in the blood and blood proteins leak into the urine. The mothers liver, lungs brain and clotting system can also be affected.

In the final stage of the condition – eclampsia, convulsions, stroke, pulmonary oedema (fluid in the lungs), kidney failure, liver damage and breakdown of the blood clotting system are the most dangerous complications.

There is no single diagnostic test to detect the early signs of pregnancy. Although recent research by the American Society of Nephrology are developing a test that can detect specific kidney cells in patients’ urine but more work is required to enable it to be an accurate and positive test for pre-eclampsia.

A dietary supplement in the form of an amino acid and antioxidant vitamins have also been tested on a group of 600 women in Mexico City, some with given a placebo and the remainder were given food bars containing L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins.

In the placebo group it was found 30.2% of women developed pre-eclampsia and 12.7% in the group given the L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins. (Source: BBC News Health 2011)

The above studies are inconclusive and more research and studies are required into the condition.

Given all of the above most women understandably might be fearful to go on and have another baby. Having experienced severe pre-eclampsia didn’t deter me but what helped was understanding the condition and being more aware of the symptoms which was acquired through my own research and talking to the consultants who attended to me.

I am aware that the long term side effects for me are high blood pressure and potential organ damage yet to be realised.

Frustratingly it is not a condition that can be controlled, managed yes, by good antenatal checks. The condition is only ‘cured’ by delivery of the baby the challenge is ensuring mother and child can safely get to 37 weeks reducing the possibility of delivering a premature baby.

For more information on pre-eclampsia you can visit APEC – Action on Pre-Eclampsia. An invaluable site providing information about the condition.

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