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It Is Okay to Decide Not to Have Kids

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

For many women, the choice to become a mother is an easy one. To these women it feels natural; they look forward to it and, usually, love it once it happens. For other women, the choice is also clear – the choice not to become a mother. For many women, this is an easy choice to make, but not such an easy one to share with their loved ones. After all, we still live in a culture that expects women to become mothers. A girl becomes a woman, gets married, and has kids. A woman who deviates from this plan is somehow “wrong.” Women have fought so hard over the years for equal rights, including the right to make choices for themselves – so why are we still so hard on women who make the choice to remain child-free?

Lately, the ranks of childless women have been speaking up in a big way. They are making themselves heard loud and clear: We don’t want kids. Period. Not, we don’t want kids now, but we realize we might change our minds later. Not, we can’t have kids. But we don’t want them. It is not going to happen.

These women will not be made to feel guilty because so many women want kids but can’t have them. Nor will they buy into the idea that they are selfish or bad because they choose freedom over babies. And they do not accept the premise that they somehow do not understand their own desires or “will change their minds later.” They are bravely claiming for themselves lives of free time, solitude at will, career immersion, or vacations at the drop of a hat – basically, they are choosing to do what they want to do, when they want to do it.

Unfortunately, an “us and them” mentality has begun to take shape around this issue. Moms, understandably, get defensive when they feel like their choices are being disparaged. Childless women feel ostracized by moms. This is a disturbing trend that we should nip in the bud, because women can potentially be such a great support system for each other.

And let’s be honest: the fact of the matter is that no matter what you choose, you are going to be judged for it. You are either fat and lazy or thin and stuck-up. You are either poor and uneducated or rich and mean. You are either a bad mother with too many kids or you are a selfish, close-minded woman with no kids. You can’t please everyone, and sometimes, you can’t please anyone but yourself. So please yourself. Life is short; how you live yours must be your own choice.

As women, it’s time we stop tearing each other down and start empowering each other to make individual choices – and supporting each other in those choices. It’s not “us and them.” We are all still women, with dreams and plans and feelings. Let me empower you: it’s okay not to have kids – and it’s okay to have them. No one can make the choice for you but you.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

Apgar Scores May Predict ADHD

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

As you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy, you’ll probably be relieved in some ways. You’ll be able to lift your own ban on caffeine, start working back towards your normal body weight, and say goodbye to the relentless back pain. At the same time, you might be nervous about entering motherhood. There are many questions you’ll need to know the answers to upon your baby’s birth, and motherhood will become your new unpaid – albeit wonderful – full time job. One concern many mothers have as their baby starts to develop is the risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Many kids are prescribed with different medications for ADHD, and there is endless controversy surrounding it. Unfortunately, the disorder affects many children and their ability to learn in a classroom setting, so it can be detrimental if left untreated. The worst part is that we as physicians are unable to find the cause for the condition. However, one recent study suggests that you might get a clue about your child’s susceptibility to ADHD right after birth.

After you’ve given birth, your doctor will perform an Apgar examination. The test measures your baby’s vital signs such as his or her heart rate, muscle tone, and breathing. Essentially, it is a score that measures the health of your baby immediately after birth at 1 and 5 minutes.   It tells the pediatrician whether or not your newborn needs to be resuscitated because it doesn’t demonstrate the essential hallmarks.  Your baby will be ranked on a scale of 1-10, and babies with a score under 7 need additional medical attention. Amazingly, the results of the recent ADHD study show that children with a low Apgar score immediately after birth are more likely to develop the disorder later in life. Even in children with a score of five or six, their risk was 63% higher than those with a score above seven.

If your baby is born with an Apgar score below seven, you shouldn’t immediately assume that he or she will suffer from ADHD. Instead, you should be prepared and look for signs as your child grows up that he or she might need some assistance in school. Being a good mom is tough, but knowing in advance that your child is at risk makes your job a little easier. The low Apgar score could be a sign that there were some developmental problems in the womb, and you should assist your child accordingly should any learning disabilities present themselves.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.