There is happiness and love in building a family, but for some women, pregnancy and motherhood can be an incredibly stressful experience. As part of our commitment to Alive and Well STL, Five On Your Side looks into what can be done to help prevent health complications caused by toxic stress.
Seven-month-old Maiyani Sharp's smile is contagious. But before there were happy moments shared between her and her mom, Charity, Charity was going through a difficult time.
"I had a hard, hard pregnancy," Sharp said. "I was really depressed a lot. I was really stressed out."
Her husband encouraged her to give Nurses for Newborns a try.
"We want to be able to address that stress because it can make all the difference between a family thriving and a family struggling," CEO Melinda Ohlemiller said.
Ohlemiller says chronic stress can lead to all kinds of health concerns for the mother, including hypertension and diabetes. It can also cause complications for the baby.
"We may see that the baby has a low birth weight or has to spend time in intensive care nursery when they might not have," she said. "So having a healthy mom is really critical to having a healthy baby."
The agency sends nurses to meet with pregnant women and new moms inside of their homes at no cost to the family.
"And we provide screenings for some common concerns like maternal depression, developmental concerns for the baby," Ohlemiller said.
And they provide a listening ear. Linda Spina did that every couple weeks for Sharp. They've kept in touch even after Maiyani's birth.
"To have someone to talk to was a great outlet for me, especially someone that didn't know me, because they couldn't judge my situation or judge me for anything that I've been through."
Sharp wrote what Spina told her on her closet mirror. They're affirmations she now tells her baby girl. And after such a positive experience, she encourages other women struggling with their maternity to get help too.
"You can give us a call and see if this is appropriate for you," Ohlemiller said.
Clients of Nurses for Newborns also have access to a food and clothing pantry. For more information, visit their website.