All posts by Chad Beyler

Fight Back Against Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Did you know that approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety? Sometimes they experience anxiety by itself, and sometimes it’s in addition to depression.

The reported rate of clinical postpartum depression for new mothers is between 10-20%, and it’s believed the numbers are actually higher than these statistics reveal. Women of every culture, age, income level and race can develop perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and for the first 12 months after childbirth.

But there’s much reason for hope. With informed care you can prevent these symptoms from worsening and can fully recover. There’s no reason to continue suffering alone. We’re here to help.

Postpartum Blues

Approximately 80% of new mothers experience “the baby blues,” which can include mood swings and weepiness. This lasts for approximately 2-3 weeks after birth and is considered a normal adjustment to being a new mother. These “blues” are resolved without medical assistance.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is more severe, intense and/or long-lasting than common “baby blues.” Symptoms can begin anytime during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. They differ for everyone and can include the following:

  • Feelings of anger or irritability
  • Lack of interest in your baby
  • Appetite and sleep disturbance
  • Crying and sadness
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself

It’s important to know the risk factors for antepartum and postpartum depression. Research has shown that the following could put you at a higher risk for developing these illnesses:

  • A personal or family history of depression, anxiety or postpartum depression
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD or PMS)
  • Inadequate support in caring for your baby
  • Financial stress
  • Marital stress
  • Complications in pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
  • A major recent life event: death of a family member or friend, house move, job loss, etc.
  • Mothers of multiples
  • Mothers whose infants are in Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU)
  • Mothers who’ve gone through infertility treatments
  • Women with a thyroid imbalance
  • Women with any form of diabetes (type 1, type 2 or gestational)

If you have any of these factors, discuss them with your medical provider so you can plan ahead for care should you need it.

Postpartum Anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum might include:

  • Constant worry
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • Racing thoughts
  • Disturbances of sleep and appetite
  • Inability to sit still
  • Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes and nausea

Risk factors for perinatal anxiety and panic include a personal or family history of anxiety, previous perinatal depression or anxiety, or thyroid imbalance.

What are your next steps?

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms discussed above, please reach out as soon as you can to talk with supportive and informed people. Reaching out to someone is the most important step you can take for yourself and your family. If you need immediate help, please contact the national emergency service listed below. They are available 24/7. It’s very important to reach out and find the support and information you need to be safe.

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline and Website
    (800) 273-8255
    www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
    Free and confidential. Call for yourself or for someone you care about. They have a network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide.

Always remember to take care of yourself, in order to care of your family. Try some of these self-care tips:

  • Put on make-up or do your hair
  • Shower
  • Nap
  • Change your clothes
  • Give yourself a pep talk
  • Meditate
  • Keep a journal

Postpartum depression and anxiety are serious – but they can be overcome. You are strong and have so many reasons for happy and hope-filled times ahead!

Nicole McCoy RN, BSN is the prenatal, neonatal and pediatric care coordinator for Health Alliance.  Nicole has been a nurse for 10 years and has extensive experience working with mothers, babies and families. She provides new mothers and moms-to-be with expertise and support for their physical and mental well-being. Nicole works with our members over the phone, and also in person for those who live in the Champaign-Urbana area. If you are interested in setting up Care Coordination with Nicole, call (800) 851-3379, ext. 28947, or email Care.Coordination@healthalliance.org.

Children and Organ Donations

Thank Your Hometown Healthcare Heroes

Perhaps one of our shortest blog articles, but one of great importance. As the battle against COVID-19 continues, we again want to express our extreme gratitude to all the healthcare providers who’ve been delivering such needed care to our members and to the world.

And to our dear readers, we hope you do the same. Send a note of thanks to your doctor. A short email, a lengthy card, a hand-colored “thank you” from your child – anything works. Check out your local hospital’s website and see if they’re accepting donations of home-sewn masks. Put your sewing skills to work if so. Put notes in your windows – or colorful chalk messages on your driveway – thanking your town’s nurses, doctors and first responders.

Get creative. Healthcare workers deserve our thanks year-round, but it’s especially important now. Even while practicing social distancing, it’s easy to let them know how truly grateful we all are.

National Stress Awareness Month: Addressing Job-Related Stress

Stress is the body’s natural response to unfamiliar or intense situations. While some stress is good for the body, too much is detrimental. One of the biggest stressors for many? Their jobs.

If this stress isn’t managed effectively, it could eventually lead to burnout.

“When you start feeling more physical aches and pains, when you feel like you don’t even want to go to work, you’re not happy when you’re at work, or you start making more mistakes at work, this is the point when you need to pause and reassess to identify things you may need to do in terms of self-care,” states Linda Culton, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Clinical Supervisor of Carle Foundation’s Resolutions Employee Assistance Program.

Tips for Stress Management

There’s no magic bullet for addressing stress, but stress management doesn’t have to be complicated, either. Culton advises the following:

  • Take sufficient breaks during the day.
  • Ensure you’re getting plenty of rest at night.
  • Maintain work-life balance.
  • Delegate work when possible to prevent feeling overwhelmed.

Another key tactic is being aware of negative self-talk.

“If we are distracted by thinking about how bad stress is or how bad the job situation is, we continue to contribute to negativity, which has its own negative effect on our mental health,” cautions Culton.

Talking to Your Boss about Stress

While you may feel comfortable expressing how stressed you are to your co-workers—who are likely to understand—it’s a different story relaying that information to a boss or manager. In some instances, bosses may not realize how overwhelmed you actually are and continue to assign tasks, not understanding how much added pressure they’re putting on you.

“There are ways you can frame this. If a boss comes to you and says, ‘here’s a new task I want you to start doing,’ you can pause and say, ‘okay, can you help me reprioritize what’s already on my work plate because I’m feeling overwhelmed,’” suggests Culton.

If you still feel uncomfortable sharing feelings of overwhelm, you may find relief via an employee assistance program (EAP). EAP providers often offer free counseling.

“For our EAP, we also have an online resource library, which gives people the opportunity to, on their own time, look up self-help strategies, articles, there’s little quizzes they can take. We also have an anonymous, confidential website people can go to if they feel like their stress is really extreme,” notes Culton.

Mental First Aid

Those trained as health coaches or EAP counselors are able to offer mental health “first aid,” which is similar to the physical first aid many of us have been taught to give. “If someone has been trained in mental health first aid, such as a coworker or a friend or family member, they use their listening skills to encourage people to seek self-help or other types of support.

Culton also advises looking into mobile apps that offer psychological and emotional first aid. “There are lots of new ways to educate yourself and find resources online. I think it’s important for people to just learn a little bit more about stress, whether it’s work-related or not.”

To listen to an interview on this topic with Linda Culton, in the inaugural episode of our Allied and Well podcast, follow this link: https://www.healthalliance.org/state-of-illinois/podcast

The ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency has many of us stressed. Learn ways to cope in this article on OSF HealthCare’s blog.

Working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Memorial Health System offers guidance for handling any stress this might cause.

Finding it hard to unplug from work? Check out these tips from the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System.

How can mindfulness help you beat stress? Read this article from our friends at Springfield Clinic.

Linda Culton, LCSW, Clinical Supervisor of Carle’s Resolutions Employee Assistance Program

A Message of Thanks

The past month has been a difficult time in America and throughout the world. As COVID-19 has infected individuals in all of our service areas and changed the fabric of our daily lives, we wanted to reach out with a short message of gratitude to all those we hold dear.

To our members and employer groups. Thank you for your resilience, strength and optimism during this pandemic. We know that many of you are facing tough times. COVID-19 has affected the health, financial stability and daily life of individuals and businesses in all our communities. Your strength – and collaboration – during these weeks is inspirational.

At Health Alliance, we’ll continue to work hard to make health care more accessible and affordable during this public health emergency. We’ve already taken measures to remove barriers to care, eliminate restrictions and ease costs for our members and groups. We also promise to be here to answer any questions you might have about your coverage. Visit our COVID-19 webpage for common FAQs, and call the number on the back of your ID card for any additional answers you might need.

To our brokers. You haven’t let this pandemic stop or slow your important work, connecting those in our communities to the access to coverage they need. While many of you have had to limit your in-person and face-to-face outreach, you’ve continued providing service to countless individuals, families and businesses who depend on health care now more than ever.

To our providers. Our most heartfelt thanks for your care, concern and selfless service for our members during these difficult and trying times. During the COVID-19 emergency, it’s all of you – our frontline healthcare providers – who are yet again showing your tireless talents, courage and humanity to a world in need of inspiration. Thank you for always rising to the occasion – in everyday circumstances and in the midst of pandemics – to ensure that our members have the absolute best in healthcare services. It’s our honor to work with you as partners.

We aren’t out of the woods yet. But knowing the strength and courage of our communities, we feel confident that better days are ahead. From Health Alliance, simply, thank you.

3 Things Grandparents Should Know About Vaccines

There are few things more exciting in this world than the arrival of a grandchild. The anticipation to see if the baby has your child’s eyes, the enjoyment of picking out all of those adorable baby clothes, and those precious weekends at grandma’s!

New grandparents should remember the importance of protecting their grandchild from preventable illnesses by understanding vaccines. Vaccines are not just important for the newborn, but also for you.

Vaccines are safe and effective.

Vaccines are the single most important method to prevent diseases like polio, whooping cough, and the measles. Vaccines go through rigorous testing, and children are far more likely to be harmed by illnesses, like whooping cough and the flu, than by the vaccine itself.

Whooping cough is on the rise.

Do you think whooping cough is an extinct illness from your childhood? Sadly, it’s not, and even though it was once rare, it’s now reappearing. Whooping cough (pertussis) is one illness that is especially dangerous to newborns.

Time for a booster?

You may be thinking, “Wait! I was already vaccinated against whooping cough when I was a child.” But the CDC recommends you get a Tdap shot, the vaccine that protects against whooping cough, every 10 years or if you’re 65 or older and in close contact with infants. Don’t forget about your annual flu shot either.  

Don’t’ forget to take steps to protect the health of you and your grandbaby. Making precious memories with your new grandchild will be more enjoyable with that peace of mind. Please consult your doctor about any questions, concerns, or comments you may have.

Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a small-town girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. Like this article? Feel free to respond to VantagePoint@healthalliance.org. Thanks for reading!

BMI: Barely Makin’ It

I have an idea to change the famous BMI (body mass index) clinical term to “barely makin’ it!” Who’s with me?!

Let’s be honest, it already makes you feel better because lots of us are “barely makin’ it” inside those numbers. If you’ve ever had to step on a scale (begrudgingly) at the doctor’s office, you know that based on that scale’s number, there may be a following conversation with your doctor about your body mass index.

For a lot of years, as my age and weight increased, I wanted to hear less and less about this number. Not only did I already know that I had gained more than a few pounds, but I was also very aware that my numbers (A1C, BMI, etc.) probably weren’t where they needed to be. And honestly, I didn’t want to hear it. Luckily, my A1C surprised me. It was great. But my BMI could be better.

BMI is divided into the following categories.

Underweight = less than 18.5 BMI

Normal Weight = 18.5–24.9 BMI

Overweight = 25–29.9 BMI

Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

So why get your BMI checked? Because it can provide a baseline for predicting the likelihood of developing serious illnesses in the future. We’re talking type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer, just to name a few.

The next time you see your doctor, have them check your BMI to start the conversation about specific actions you could be taking to improve it. You can also visit our health and wellness resources for more info on weight management, and get information from Reid’s “I Heart Cooking” for useful recipes to help build healthier lives!

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Being a Part of Something Special

I was recently part of helping with the community commitment grants review committee for the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois (CFECI).

It all started through joining an effort with CFECI for the Aspiring Philanthropists Giving Circle. They asked if I would be interested in supporting the community commitment grant review. I was honored. This meant I had the privilege to review multiple applications from many important not-for-profits that serve central Illinois.

I got to go out into the community and visit with some of the organizations that applied for grants to see the work they do and learn more about their needs. These organizations serve the community in very different ways, which makes the review process that much harder.

I was familiar with some of the organizations through my outreach work for Health Alliance. We drive out to the communities we serve to build relationships there.

That’s our local commitment. We’re not just all about health insurance but rather, how to keep a community viable and sustainable so people who live there feel good about where they live. It’s very important for us to engage and participate in these communities by serving in capacities like I do with the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois.

But let me get back to sharing my experience with the grant reviews.

There’s so much value in getting to spend time with individuals who are so passionate about the work they do. Did you know that Rantoul, IL, has the Rantoul Historical Society Museum? I really enjoyed meeting with Jim and learning more about its mission. It also preserves the brown and white mustang horse that used to be at the Ben Franklin dime store, which brought back so many memories of riding that horse when I was younger.   

I also got to spend time meeting with Patrice from the Peace Meal Senior Nutrition Program, working by the Community Service Center of Northern Champaign County in Rantoul, Marcie from the Survivor Resource Center in Danville, and Beth from the Hoopeston Multi-Agency Service Center. It was such a pleasure to meet all of them and hear about the important needs their organizations have.

They all demonstrate passion for serving their communities, working on very limited resources and budgets while staying positive so the clients they serve have the best experience.

The volunteers who serve in these organizations exhibit the same passion and commitment to showing up every day to make a difference. Each one of them lit up when they were describing their programs and services and how they impact people’s lives.

That meant a lot to me during the grant review process. When you go in thinking about how you’re going to support this important financial decision you need to know that the people behind it are also just as committed to using dollars wisely and creating successful outcomes.

This is one of the many reasons I love working for Health Alliance. We’re committed to helping care for those in the communities we serve.

If you get an opportunity to participate on a committee or board in the nonprofit space, it’s very fulfilling. A great place to start is with joining programs like Aspiring Philanthropists or projects the United Way supports. Or if you feel compelled, donate. 

If you have questions on where to turn, don’t hesitate to reach out. We may not have all the answers, but we know who in the community does and are happy to connect you!

Terra Mullins leads the Community Outreach Team at Health Alliance.  She is a wife, a mother, and has two really cute Mal-Shi pups! She loves nature and learning new things.

Like this article? Feel free to respond to Longview@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!