depression

A big stress factor that isn’t usually addressed is pre-menopausal or menopause effect on sleep. If you’re 40 or over, you can agree that insomnia is real! This culprit must be addressed. Many women experience sleep problems before and during menopause when hormone levels and menstrual periods become irregular. Often, poor sleep sticks around throughout the menopausal transition and after menopause.

Hormones shift throughout women’s lives, and changes to estrogen, progesterone and other hormones can lead to recurring sleep problems well before the transition to menopause actively begins. You might think that a good night’s sleep is nothing but it becomes a precious commodity once you reach a certain age.

Hot flashes are sometimes referred to as, “personal summers.’ Any woman in this stage of life will tell you that if feels like your body has turned into an oven. Sleeplessness due to menopause is often associated with hot flashes. These unpleasant sensations of extreme heat can happen during the day or at night. Nighttime hot flashes are often paired with unexpected awakenings.

There are changes in the brain that lead to the hot flash itself, and those changes — not just the feeling of heat — may also be what triggers the awakening.

When they happen at night, hot flashes are called night sweats. Some women find that hot flashes interrupt their daily lives. The earlier in life hot flashes begin, the longer you may experience them. Research has found that black women get hot flashes for more years than white and Asian women.

Lifestyle changes to improve hot flashes
Before considering medication, first try making changes to your lifestyle.
If hot flashes are keeping you up at night, keep your bedroom cooler and try drinking small amounts of cold water before bed. Layer your bedding so it can be adjusted as needed. Some women find a device called a bed fan helpful. Here are some other lifestyle changes suggested by research:
• Dress in layers, which can be removed at the start of a hot flash.
• Carry a portable fan to use when a hot flash strike.
• Avoid alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine. These can make menopausal symptoms worse.
• If you smoke, try to quit, not only for menopausal symptoms, but for your overall health.
• Try to maintain a healthy weight. Women who are overweight or obese may experience more frequent and severe hot flashes.
• Try mind-body practices like yoga or other self-calming techniques. Early-stage research has shown that mindfulness meditation, may help improve menopausal symptoms.

Here is what works for me and my suggestions from a few years of trial/errors, research, doctor’s input, etc:
1. Stop worrying about sleep! Period. It also meant I had to address other areas of my life. Most of what ails us is addressed holistically. As a first born with a type A personality, my default to is to find solutions which means my brain is working constantly. Sometimes, I ponder problems that have not yet been invented. Which also means that I’m not present in the moment. I lived in the future somewhere. However, I’ve learned to pay attention to the Here and Now, and enjoy those in my life circle. I endeavor to Live my best life and not try to fix everything. This helps quiet my mind.
2. It is perfectly okay to give yourself a limited amount of time to ‘stress or fuss’ after which you stop and move on to a mindless activity. Sleep will come.
3. Exercise is my go-to therapy. When I run, I sleep better.
4. Sex is a great precursor to sleep but only after both parties are fully satisfied. If the woman is a passive participant, she’ll have to watch her partner sleep joyfully next to her.
5. I am an avid aromatherapy advocate. We must be consistent in this. It takes a while for your body to acclimate to a particular scent. My scent of choice is lavender because it calms me.
6. I drink chamomile or any relaxing tea at night. This is a staple.
7. I love baths and my doctor suggested I take one before I sleep. I soak in the tub with bath beads, light candle. OR take a shower in the dark but rub your body with aroma oils and inhale.
8. Finally, once in a while, I find my way to my massage therapist, who usually says that my body is knotted up; however after 2 hours or so, I am loose and ready to climb in bed

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that grow in the wall of the uterus. When fibroids cause heavy bleeding or painful symptoms, and other treatments are ineffective, a doctor may recommend surgery.

Fibroids are common, but it is challenging for doctors to determine what percentage of people have them, as not everyone experiences symptoms. According to various estimates, fibroids may affect between 20% and 80% of the female population under the age of 50 years.

Although fibroids can sometimes grow to the size of a grapefruit or even larger, they are often very small. Many people with fibroids are unaware that they have them. People with asymptomatic fibroids do not require surgery or other treatments.

However, other people experience abdominal pain, pressure, bloating, pain during sex, frequent urination, and heavy or painful periods. These individuals may require surgery.

In this article, learn more about surgery for fibroids, including the types, risks, and what to expect.

Types

There are several different surgical approaches to treating fibroids. The types of surgery that a person can have will depend on the location of the fibroid.

A doctor will usually recommend more conservative options, such as medication, before considering surgery.

In cases where medication and other treatments do not work, surgical options include the following:

Myomectomy

Myomectomy is a surgical procedure that removes fibroids. Depending on the location of these growths, a surgeon may also have to remove other tissue in the process. Surgeons offer different myomectomy techniques.

The traditional technique is quite invasive as it uses a relatively large cut. This incision may go from the bellybutton to the bikini line or run horizontally along the bikini line. Some surgeons also perform laparoscopic surgeries, which use smaller incisions but require more skill.

Although a myomectomy preserves the uterus, women who wish to become pregnant should speak to a doctor about the possible complications. Those with very large or deeply embedded fibroids may only be able to have cesarean deliveries after this procedure.

New fibroids may develop after a myomectomy, which means that it is not a permanent solution for everyone.

Radiofrequency ablation procedure

Radiofrequency ablation destroys fibroids using either an electric current, a laser, cold therapy, or ultrasound. It requires only a small incision.

However, it can cause dangerous pregnancy complications, such as scarring and infection, so doctors do not recommend it for those who are planning future pregnancies.

Radiofrequency ablation may be a good option for people considering a hysterectomy who want a less invasive procedure.

Endometrial ablation

Endometrial ablation does not remove fibroids, but it can help relieve heavy bleeding.

During endometrial ablation, a surgeon uses a range of techniques — which may include heat, electric current, freezing, lasers, or wire — to destroy the lining of the uterus. These techniques reduce or stop heavy bleeding.

This procedure is less invasive than some other surgical options. Sometimes, doctors can even perform it on an outpatient basis in their office.

This procedure may prevent women from being able to get pregnant in the future, so it is not a good option for those who would still like to have children.

Fibroid or artery embolization

A doctor can locate the blood vessels that feed into the fibroid and disrupt their blood supply. During this procedure, they will insert a tube into blood vessels that supply the fibroid and then inject tiny particles that block the fibroid’s blood supply. The lack of blood shrinks the fibroids.

Doctors can do this procedure on an inpatient or outpatient basis, and recovery is usually fairly straightforward. Fibroids do not typically grow back after embolization.

While pregnancy is sometimes possible after fibroid embolization, doctors do not know enough about the risks. Therefore, they do not recommend this procedure for women who wish to get pregnant.

Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound surgery

In magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS), a doctor uses an ultrasound to heat and destroy fibroids.

This procedure can target the individual fibroids and avoid affecting the surrounding healthy tissue. A doctor will do an MRI scan to determine whether a person is a suitable candidate for MRgFUS. They may not recommend MRgFUS if the fibroids are too large or too close to any bones or the bowel.

MRgFUS may be a good option for women who plan to get pregnant, as it leaves the uterus intact. However, more data is necessary to confirm its safety for these individuals.

Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is a surgery to remove the uterus and, sometimes, the ovaries. A hysterectomy permanently eliminates uterine fibroids.

This procedure is not an option for anyone planning a future pregnancy, as it removes the womb. Some people opt to leave the ovaries in place so that they continue producing estrogen.

A surgeon may be able to perform a laparoscopic hysterectomy, which uses several small incisions and a tiny camera to help the surgeon see inside the abdomen. An open hysterectomy requires a large incision between the bellybutton and the bikini line.

Another option is a vaginal hysterectomy, which is the approach that most people prefer. In this procedure, a surgeon will remove the uterus through the vagina.

A vaginal hysterectomy may not be possible if the uterus or fibroid is too large to fit through the vagina.

Individuals who undergo an open hysterectomy may have a longer recovery time. Doctors usually recommend a hysterectomy only for those whose fibroids are very large or significantly interfere with their quality of life.

People who have other reproductive health issues, such as endometriosis, may find that a hysterectomy provides significant relief from fibroids and other symptoms.

Morcellation

Morcellation is a procedure that reduces the size of fibroids so that a surgeon can remove them through a tiny incision in the abdomen. A doctor may use morcellation during a myomectomy, hysterectomy, or other surgery.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) caution that morcellation carries significant risks.

While fibroids are not cancerous, uterine cancer is more common in people having fibroid surgery than experts previously thought.

It can also be difficult to tell the difference between a fibroid and a type of cancer that looks the same. According to the FDA, morcellation may inadvertently spread cancer that resembles a fibroid.

Is surgery necessary?

Not everyone with fibroids needs treatment. In most cases, there is no reason to treat fibroids that cause no symptoms.

Some people with fibroids can treat symptoms successfully with medication, including hormonal birth control pills. Others alleviate fibroid symptoms by using pain relievers and other management strategies.

Before considering surgery, people can ask a doctor about other treatment options. The doctor should also provide clear details about the risks and benefits of each surgical procedure.

Fibroids can shrink or disappear after menopause, so people nearing menopause whose symptoms are not severe may wish to postpone treatment.

Benefits

The benefits of surgery depend on the type of surgery and can vary from person to person. For example, there is no chance that the fibroids will grow back after a hysterectomy. However, they may regrow following other procedures.

Some potential benefits include:

  • reduced bleeding
  • relief from pain or pressure
  • removal of fibroids
  • the potential that fibroids will either not grow as large or not regrow at all

Risks

Most people who have fibroid removal surgery have no serious complications, but they may experience pain or bleeding following surgery and will need time to recover.

However, a small number of people do face serious complications. The specific complications and their likelihood depend on the type of surgery that a person chooses, but they can include:

  • anesthesia-related risks
  • infections
  • heavy bleeding
  • failed surgery
  • regrowth of fibroids
  • damage to the uterus or other surrounding organs
  • in the case of morcellation, spreading cancer

How does fibroid surgery affect fertility?

The effects of fibroid surgery on fertility depend on the type of surgery. A hysterectomy or endometrial ablation usually makes pregnancy impossible.

Some procedures that may affect fertility but will not necessarily prevent pregnancy include:

  • morcellation
  • embolization
  • radiofrequency ablation

A myomectomy does not typically affect fertility. However, any surgery on the uterus can potentially damage the reproductive organs and affect future pregnancies.

Recovery

Most fibroid removal surgeries require general anesthesia. A person may need to stay overnight in the hospital, so the hospital staff may advise them to bring an overnight bag.

Invasive surgeries, such as a hysterectomy or a nonlaparoscopic myomectomy, typically have the longest recovery time.

A person can try the following to help ease recovery:

  • asking a doctor about the specific recovery timeline for the chosen surgery
  • asking a doctor about laparoscopic procedures and talking to a specialist with experience in minimally invasive surgery
  • following the doctor’s self-care and recovery instructions
  • getting help from a loved one in the days following surgery

Other treatment options

In most cases, a doctor will recommend trying other treatments before pursuing surgery.

Treatments for fibroids include:

  • Birth control pills. Hormonal contraceptives may slow fibroid growth and prevent heavy, painful periods.
  • Pain medication. Prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers may help with fibroid pain, especially period-related fibroid pain.
  • Iron supplements. For people with heavy bleeding that causes anemia, iron supplements may help.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRH). These drugs may help shrink fibroids. Some doctors recommend them prior to surgery to make fibroid removal easier.

Summary

Surgery can be lifechanging for people whose fibroids interfere with their quality of life, as it can improve many aspects of their health.

All surgeries present some risks, however, so it is vital to explore all treatment options. A doctor can provide advice on which surgeries might be appropriate. A person may also wish to consider seeking a second opinion before agreeing to surgery.

Depression is more than just sadness and can be a serious and potentially life threatening illness. Even very young children can develop depression, so parents and caregivers must take the condition seriously.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.2% of children aged between 3 and 17 in the United StatesTrusted Source have a depression diagnosis. This figure likely underestimates how common depression is among young people.

A 2018 analysis emphasizesTrusted Source that depression is underdiagnosed in children and that just 50% of depressed teens receive a diagnosis before adulthood. The suicide rate has risenTrusted Source over the past 2 decades, including among children.

It is vital to note that the symptoms of depression are also highly treatable, especially when a child has adequate support from loving caregivers.

In this article, learn more about depression in children, including the signs, symptoms, and how to find help.

Signs and symptoms

Children with depression may feel sad or hopeless. Depression, however, is much more than just sadness. It can affect many aspects of a child’s behavior or mood.

Young children may complain of physical symptoms, such as frequent stomachaches, instead of emotional pain. They may also fear separation from their parents, develop behavioral problems, or seem agitated and restless.

Some other symptoms of childhood depression include:

  • loss of interest in activities a child once enjoyed
  • withdrawal
  • low motivation
  • changes in sleeping habits, such as sleeping very little or too much
  • eating habit changes, such as overeating or not eating enough
  • running away
  • having thoughts of or talking about suicide
  • interest in death
  • giving things away
  • feeling hopeless
  • low self-esteem
  • trouble concentrating
  • new or worsening problems at school, with siblings or friends
  • use of alcohol or drugs, especially among teens

Risk factors

Depression is a complex illness with biological, psychological, and social causes. This means that many factors contribute to depression, including:

  • genetics
  • alterations in brain chemistry
  • personality
  • environmental factors, such as trauma and stress

The chance of depression is highest in children who have several risk factors.

Some risk factors for depression in children include:

  • being female when considering teens
  • family history of depression
  • being born to a mother younger than 18 years old
  • history of stress or trauma, including conflict between the child’s parents or caregivers
  • sleep issues
  • medical problems, especially chronic illnesses, such as asthma
  • overweight or obesity
  • lack of coping skills
  • negative thinking style
  • self-consciousness
  • poor relationships with friends
  • school difficulties
  • recent loss, such as changing schools or the death of a loved one
  • low birth weight

There is no way to predict who will or will not experience depression. Some children with many risk factors never develop depression, while others with few or no apparent risk factors do.

Diagnosis

No blood or imaging test can detect depression. Instead, a mental health professional, for example, a psychiatrist, therapist, or social worker, will ask about the child’s symptoms and behavior.

Looking at the child’s symptoms, the doctor will determine whether they have depression, another mental health condition, or both.

Caregivers can help a doctor make a diagnosis by keeping a list of symptoms. They should be prepared to answer questions about the child’s history, when symptoms first appeared, and whether there is a family history of depression.

The provider may want to meet with the child alone because some children, especially teens, may not feel comfortable discussing all of their symptoms in front of others.

Treatment

The treatment for depression may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and family counseling.

Many people need to try several treatment strategies before they find one that works for them. It is helpful to ensure the child receives therapy and comprehensive mental health support in addition to medication or other treatments to ensure they get the best results.

A doctor may recommend:

  • family counseling if there are family problems or a history of trauma
  • education about depression and how best to help
  • antidepressant medications
  • increased activity, since some people get relief from depression with exercise
  • individual therapy to help the child better manage their emotions and stress

Effective treatment should avoid stigmatizing the child or punishing them for behaviors that come from depression.

Supporting a child with depression

Parents and caregivers may worry that they caused the child’s depression or believe that they can cure it with love or discipline. Depression is a complex illness and rarely has one cause.

A loved one cannot cure a child’s depression, just as they cannot cure a physical condition, for example, diabetes. Instead, parents should focus on building a supportive environment in which the child can recover.

People may want to try these strategies:

  • Include the child as an active participant in their treatment. Encourage them to participate in making decisions as much as possible.
  • Ask the child about any side effects of their medication and work with them to find treatments that are effective.
  • Encourage the child to talk about their feelings and listen without judgment. Do not tell the child how they should feel.
  • Create a home life that is as stable and secure as possible. Minimize conflict between adults and other family members, and work to help the child manage recent traumas.
  • Educate other family members about depression so that they can offer support and help.

Related conditions

Parents sometimes mistakenly believe that any sign of mental distress in children means the child has depression.

Pediatricians and other doctors may even miss the signs of other mental health conditions. In some cases, symptoms of one disorder may mimic those of depression. For example, a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who struggles at school may appear to be feeling hopeless and sad.

Some other conditions that may have similar symptoms to depression in children include:

Certain mental health and behavioral conditions commonly co-occur with depression. According to the CDCTrusted Source, 73.8% of children with depression also have anxiety, while 47.2% also experience behavior problems.

Summary

Children with depression need support and care. Caregivers should remember that the issue is medical in nature, and it is not something that can resolve with discipline.

Very young children may lack the ability to communicate their emotions. On the other hand, older children may feel embarrassed or worry about getting into trouble.

Adults can help children get the right treatment while reassuring them that depression is treatable and not a personal failing. A pediatric mental health expert can be a valuable resource for the entire family.

Insomnia can have a serious impact on a person’s health and well-being. Now, a study of females aged 50 and over has found that some parts of the diet most likely contribute to this sleep disorder.

Insomnia affects many people all over the world. According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 40% of people in the United States experience some insomnia symptoms each year.

Researchers have taken due note of this, as numerous studies have suggested that insomnia is not just a mild annoyance: It may actually be linked with many other negative health outcomes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), short sleep duration and sleep disruptions are associated withTrusted Source cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and depression, to name a few.

For this reason, specialists have been looking for ways of preventing or treating insomnia and other sleep disorders — starting by looking for all the possible causes.

Existing research has already called attention to the fact that diet may influence a person’s sleep qualityTrusted Source. Now, a study from Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, NY, suggests that a diet high in refined carbohydrates — particularly added sugars — is linked to a higher risk of insomnia. This, at least, appears to be the case among females aged 50 and over.

The research team reports these findings in a study paper that now appears in The American Journal of Clinical NutritionTrusted Source.

“Insomnia is often treated with cognitive behavioural therapy or medications, but these can be expensive or carry side effects,” explains senior study author James Gangwisch, PhD.

But, he adds, “[b]y identifying other factors that lead to insomnia, we may find straightforward and low cost interventions with fewer potential side effects.”

The possible underlying mechanism

The researchers worked with the data of 53,069 female participants aged 50–79, all of whom had enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study between September 1994 and December 1998.

To understand whether or not there really is a link between dietary choices and the risk of insomnia, the investigators looked for any associations between different diets and sleep disruptions.

Gangwisch and colleagues found a link between a higher risk of insomnia and a diet rich in refined carbohydrates. This includes foods with added sugars, soda, white rice, and white bread.

The researchers caution that it was unclear from their analysis whether the consumption of refined carbohydrates led to insomnia, or that people who experienced insomnia were more likely to consume refined carbs, especially sugary foods.

However, they do note that there is a possible underlying mechanism that might explain added sugars causing sleep disruptions.

“When blood sugar is raised quickly, your body reacts by releasing insulin, and the resulting drop in blood sugar can lead to the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can interfere with sleep,” Gangwisch explains.

Why fruit will not impact sleep

The study authors also explain why not all foods that contain sugar will lead to the same effect. Fruits and vegetables — which naturally contain sugar — are unlikely to raise blood sugar levels nearly as quickly as foods containing added sugars.

This is because these natural foods are also high in fiber, which means that the body absorbs the sugar more slowly, preventing a spike in blood sugar levels.

Indeed, the female participants who had diets rich in vegetables and whole fruits — but not fruit juices — did not have an increased risk of insomnia.

“Whole fruits contain sugar, but the fiber in them slow the rate of absorption to help prevent spikes in blood sugar,” says Gangwisch.

“This suggests that the dietary culprit triggering the women’s insomnia was the highly processed foods that contain larger amounts of refined sugars that aren’t found naturally in food.”

James Gangwisch, Ph.D.

The researchers only worked with females aged 50 and over, but they believe that the findings could also apply to males and people of other ages. Going forward, they argue that this idea is worth exploring in more detailed studies.

“Based on our findings, we would need randomized clinical trials to determine if a dietary intervention, focused on increasing the consumption of whole foods and complex carbohydrates, could be used to prevent and treat insomnia,” concludes Gangwisch.

Depression is a widespread mental health condition. Pregnant women have a higher risk of depression due to increased stress, physical health changes, chemical changes in the body, and other factors.

While estimates vary, a 2016 analysisTrusted Source suggests that between 7% and upwards of 20% of pregnant women around the world have depression. The actual rate could be higher, since some women may be reluctant to seek help.

Depression during pregnancy can have emotional, health, relationship, and financial effects. Some people know this condition as prenatal depression. However, the American Psychiatric Association no longer use this term. Instead, they use the term major depressive disorder with peripartum onset.

Depression during pregnancy is treatable.

In this article, learn more about the symptoms of depression during pregnancy, as well as the treatment options and when to see a doctor.

Signs and symptoms

It is normal to feel a mix of emotions during pregnancy and about being pregnant.

While a person with depression may feel sad, sadness is just one of many depression symptoms.

Some other signs include:

  • new or worsening feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • not enjoying activities that were once fun or meaningful
  • withdrawing from friends, family, school, work, or hobbies
  • new physical health symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches
  • trouble feeling excited about the pregnancy or bonding with the baby after childbirth
  • feelings of isolation and low self-esteem
  • trouble sleeping
  • sleeping too much
  • changes in eating habits, such as eating more or less than usual
  • thoughts of death or suicide
  • frequent crying
  • unexplained anger
  • relationship stress
  • difficulty following prenatal health recommendations because of feelings of helplessness or hopelessness

Suicide prevention

  • If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
  • Listen to the person without judgment.

Risk factors

Anyone can become depressed during pregnancy, though some people are more vulnerable.

The authors of a 2017 analysisTrusted Source reviewed 5 years of previous studies on the topic and identified the following risk factors:

  • previous history of depression
  • little or no exercise
  • not having a partner
  • a history of abuse or trauma
  • abuse by a partner
  • feeling out of control
  • smoking
  • using certain drugs, such as opioids
  • sleep problems
  • immune system problems
  • having an unintended pregnancy
  • not having a job

Effects on pregnancy

Many women who experience depression during pregnancy have healthy pregnancies. Depression does not mean the baby will be unhealthy or make any particular pregnancy outcome inevitable.

However, research suggestsTrusted Source that depression during pregnancy may raise the risk of:

  • postpartum depression
  • depression in the baby’s father
  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • behavior problems or a difficult temperament in the baby
  • changes in the baby’s brain development

2011 studyTrusted Source emphasizes that untreated depression increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Prompt treatment can improve the outcomes for both the pregnant woman and the developing fetus.

Treatments

Many people find that they must try several treatments or a combination of treatments to get relief from depression symptoms.

Some treatment options that may work include:

  • antidepressants to manage the chemical changes in the brain that depression causes
  • therapy to help the pregnant woman talk through emotions, identify coping skills, and getting support for the challenges of pregnancy
  • support from friends and family
  • family or relationship counseling to help expectant people talk about their emotions and manage the challenges of parenting
  • lifestyle changes, such as doing more exercise, as long as it is safe during pregnancy
  • support groups for expectant parents
  • treatment for any underlying medical conditions

Are antidepressants safe during pregnancy?

handful of studiesTrusted Source link antidepressant use during pregnancy to an increased risk of congenital disabilities. Some studies have also found an increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

However, many studies fail to control for other factors that might explain these outcomes, such as worse health in women with depression or the effects of depression itself on the pregnancy. Additionally, some of the research is contradictory and inconclusive. The side effects are not consistent across studiesTrusted Source.

The risks of untreated depression may outweigh any potential risks of antidepressants. Research has found that 60–70%Trusted Source of women who stop using antidepressants during pregnancy experience a return of depression symptoms.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advise that the risk of side effects from antidepressants during pregnancy is low. The risk, they add, is highest in very early pregnancy—during the 3rd to 8th weeks.

Antidepressants are not the only treatment for depression during pregnancy, however. Therapy, lifestyle changes, support from friends and family, and sometimes family or couples counseling are also good options. Most people use a combination of treatments.

Some pregnant women prefer to try other treatments before choosing antidepressants. This strategy may work for some people, but not others.

When to see a doctor

Anyone who is pregnant and suspects they have depression should see their doctor as soon as possible. Most obstetricians and midwives have basic training in detecting depression in pregnant women.

They can also help a person decide on the right treatments and answer any questions they have about potential risks to the baby.

To get quality, comprehensive treatment, most people need additional support from a mental health professional.

A psychiatrist can help with deciding on the right medication, assessing the risk of side effects, and switching medications if necessary. A therapist, psychologist, or clinical social worker can also offer therapy and may recommend lifestyle or other changes to improve symptoms.

Summary

Depression during pregnancy can be an isolating experience. Friends and family may have unfair expectations that pregnant women always feel happy and fail to recognize the many challenges associated with pregnancy and parenthood.

Some women feel guilty or ashamed of their emotions or worry that depression means they are unfit for parenthood.

Depression is no one’s fault. It is a treatable medical condition. The hopelessness that comes with depression may convince a person that treatment will not work, or that they will feel miserable forever. These feelings are symptoms of depression, not a reasonable assessment.

Prompt treatment is vital to relieve symptoms and to help a woman have a healthy and content pregnancy.

“I used to be a full-time patient at this facility,” says Michelle Eze, a drug abuse survivor, as she signs her name in the register for a check-up with her psychiatrist at Karu General Hospital in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory(FCT).

“I’m so glad I sought help in time as I was dependent on drugs and it cost me so much. It negatively affected the relationship with my family and people around me. I was disowned and left to face this harsh world all by myself. Drug abuse is a problem we should all join hands and fight it.”

Michelle is now a full-time ambassador against drug abuse among women.

One out of every four people who uses drugs in Nigeria is a woman, according to a 2018 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Over 300,000 Nigerians are high-risk drug users

Approximately 376 000 people – or about 0.4% of the Nigerian population aged 15-64 – are reckoned to be high-risk drug users, according to the UNODC report. Nearly 90% of these users regularly take opioids – particularly pharmaceutical opioids such as tramadol codeine, or morphine – while the others take cocaine or amphetamines.

Over 20% of the high-risk drug users inject drugs, with women first injecting on average at 20 years old and men first injecting on average at around 21 years old. HIV prevalence among women who inject drugs is almost seven times higher than among men who inject, according to the 2010 National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) Integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance survey.

“At Karu hospital, we receive roughly 15 patients every day and usually at least half of them report to be using one drug or another,” says Pius Wabass, a psychiatric nurse on the Karu General Hospital’s psychiatry ward.

“These patients are often so young – under 40 – and, of late, more women are checking into our facility. The misuse of drugs

has serious health repercussions. Medically, opioids are primarily used for pain relief, including anaesthesia, while amphetamines are powerful stimulators of the central nervous system used to treat some medical conditions.”

Efforts to respond to drug use in Nigeria

As countries including Nigeria make efforts to respond to drug use among the population, health experts note that there are some factors that affect women more than men. A lot of factors have been identified as putting women at increased risk, some are psychological, cultural, social and economic aspects of their lives. Another issue is the general perception that drug use is a male issue and women users are often reluctant to seek help. The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) is now addressing this.

“The FMoH has taken up this challenge and currently working with all stakeholders to respond to drug use among young people, especially women,” explains Dr Jimoh Salaudeen from the Food and Drug Division, FMOH. As part of the response, a women-specific drug treatment programme has been established at the federal neuropsychiatric hospital in Kware in Sokoto State and the ministry hopes to replicate such centres across the country.”

Dr Salaudeen continues: “There is a strong linkage between opioid use disorders and health conditions such as preterm births, stillbirths, poor foetal growth, maternal death and neonatal abstinence syndrome. This is why the Ministry of Health has prioritized sexual reproductive health, particularly for women, within the context of drug treatment and harm reduction.”

Working assiduously to reduce drug demand and harm in Nigeria

The FMOH, with the support of WHO, established the National Technical Working Group (NTWG) on drug demand and harm reduction in Nigeria in May 2019.

“The NTWG is working under the leadership of the Minister of Health and is actively engaged in implementing a comprehensive public health response to the challenge of drug use in the country,” says Dr Rex Mpazanje, WHO Cluster Coordinator for Communicable and Non Communicable Diseases.Close

“This effort also includes bringing together different stakeholders at the national and state level for a concerted response. This includes advocacy, capacity building and resource mobilization to ensure promotion of evidence-based prevention activities and the availability of drug treatment and harm reduction programmes at community level.”

Target 3.5 of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol. WHO Nigeria will continue to support to the Government of Nigeria in achieving this goal.

The behavioural medicine unit of the Karu General Hospital, Abuja. Many drug abuse patients are treated here.

As the world marks the 2019 World Aids Day today, stigmatisation and discrimination against Persons Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) remain the twin factors frustrating a successful fight against the dreaded scourge.

Not only have they prevented people from coming forward to know their status and consequently commence early treatment where result turns out positive, these factors also pose a threat to meeting the 2030 global target to end AIDS.

For PLWHAs, the constant psychological trauma they contend with at treatment centres and in communities where they live further makes life difficult. In fact, the reality of living with a life-threatening ailment finds expression daily in the discriminating and stigmatising behaviours directed at them within their environment.

For instance, “You this dead woman, a living corpse, leave my house!” was how Funmi Okafor, a mother of four children was welcomed as she returned home from the hospital after receiving the news that she tested positive to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), after weeks of constant sickness that defied treatment.

Okafor, who was squatting with a friend, (alongside her kids) after the death of her husband, met her belongings outside, drenched in rainwater, while her friend stood by the door post yelling at her to move away with her children.

With nowhere else to put up, she was forced to move into an incomplete building as her new home.

The mother of four’s journey to this sad realisation started when she noticed rashes on her body, while she was constantly ill and began to lose weight in the process.

With the constant illness, which she thought was malaria fever (as many people would think first), she, however, decided to visit a nurse, whom she told about her constant “malaria fever.”

The nurse took her blood sample to the laboratory to carry out malaria, typhoid, and HIV tests. And on confirming the cause of Okafor’s ailment, the nurse, due to lack of knowledge about patient’s right to confidentiality, refused to inform Okafor that she tested positive to HIV, but rather spread the news around the community where she lived in Edo state.

Determined to know the ailment that has caused her to emaciate, with rashes all over her body, Okafor visited a general hospital, where after the test she was pronounced HIV positive.

“I went to a nurse and told her that I had malaria fever. She took my blood sample to the laboratory. But instead of her disclosing my condition to me, she told my friend, who spread the rumour around. I still was not aware of my status because she did not disclose it to me. It was only after I went to the general hospital that I knew my condition.

“The day I was supposed to be placed on drugs, it rained heavily, and by the time I returned to where I squatted with my children, my host had thrown out all my belongings. After yelling at me and calling me names, I packed what was left of my property and moved,” she recalled.

Before long, Okafor became the butt of jokes in the community where she lived in Edo State, and others avoided contact or any relationship with her. Since she could not stand being ostracised like that, she relocated to Lagos with her children.

She lamented: “It is not easy to cope with life when you are HIV positive. My father and husband are late, while my mother and siblings are in the village. But I was almost alone in the world before I relocated to Lagos because everyone started deserting me,” she said.

CHINWE IKE was pregnant when she discovered that she was HIV positive. She felt like taking her life and for several nights thoughts of suicide assailed her, especially because she did not know what the virus was all about, as people kept saying different things about it.

At the early stage of her pregnancy in 2006, she was on admission to a hospital for one week before she was transferred to another hospital for further treatment.

However, when she went into labour, her HIV status was confirmed in a private hospital, and the doctor in charge of the case requested that she invited a trusted relative over, who would thereafter break the news to her in a calm manner, and get her to accept her condition.

“I decided to invite my friend, who is a nurse instead of a relative. Unfortunately, after she heard of my condition, she went about scandalising me to the extent that my landlady came to me one day and asked me to leave her house. It was afterward that I discovered that it was that my nurse friend that fed everyone with details of my HIV status. Since my landlady insisted that I should leave her apartment, I did,” she said.

Ike added that it was after she left the compound before she started understanding many things about the disease, her rights as a Person Living With HIV (PLWHA). “Just because I did not know anything I had to leave the compound because they were threatening to kill me. Since then I have been living with that stigma and picking up the pieces of my life.

“It is 13 years now and I am still alive. My friend told me then that I had dug my grave, but after some years, I went back to my former neighbourhood for them to see that I am still alive, and when they saw me, most of them were surprised. However, because of the scandal, I lost my job as a secretary/cashier at a company located at the Alaba International Market, Lagos.”

Since 2001 that Chika Nnoroka discovered that she and her 18-month-old son were HIV positive, she has faced extreme stigmatisation and discrimination, not only in her community but also at medical facilities.

She narrated, “The stigmatisation and discrimination got so intense that I did not believe that I and my son would survive. People were keeping away from us, even the doctors and nurses were all stigmatising people living with HIV to the extent that most of us were finding it difficult to go to the facility to access treatment.”

Nnoroka said women were more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS stigmatisation, as many that have lost their husbands were being denied by their family members and friends. Their rights and privileges are also denied.

“By the time I got information from the doctor that there was a treatment to suppress the virus, I was a little bit relieved, but I was afraid for my little son, who just came into this world. I was not bothered about myself,” she said.

Chika’s son, who is now a 20-year-old, is waxing strong with the help of the drugs.

Misconceptions On Mode Of Transmission
Okafor, who has lived with the virus for 19 years said, “most people think that all women living with HIV are prostitutes. My husband was the one that deflowered me; you can contract HIV/AIDS from anywhere.

“I want people to change the narrative that ladies living with HIV/AIDS are wayward, I believe that is why people do not want to come out to check their status or speak up that they have the virus.”

Okafor who narrated how she contracted the virus said, “It was late but the symptoms in my husband’s body showed that he had HIV and he lied to me that it was severe cough. His close friend was the one who disclosed to me that my husband was HIV positive and that his family is keeping it away from me. He said I should go and check myself if I also have the virus.

“I did my test and found out that I was positive. My husband was never a womaniser; I suspect he contracted HIV when he was stabbed him in the chest. He had internal bleeding in his lungs and the hospital asked us to get nine pints of blood, this was during the early 1980s. I strongly believe that it was then that he contracted the disease.”

Ike on her part said: “I am somebody that does not flirt around, I contracted HIV through my husband. It was when I got married to him that I discovered that I had the virus. Initially, I could not believe that I was down with that kind of health problem.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), HIV can be transmitted through close contact with specific body fluids of persons living with the virus. Apart from fluids such as blood, semen, and breast milk; unprotected sex, body piercing equipment, or sharp objects are also vehicles of transmission. Transmission can also be done through mother-to-baby during pregnancy and through contaminated blood transfusion.

‘Cost’ Of Drugs Limiting Access To Treatment
With many of the people living with the virus jobless, and without hope of employment, affording the drugs for treatment and other medical procedures becomes difficult.

Ike said: “These drugs that we are taking are to sustain our lives and we have to eat well before taking them. What I am emphasising on is that the government should help us because right now, we are paying for drugs, and not everyone can afford it. We pay N2, 000 for consultation; N1, 000 for drugs and almost N3, 000 for laboratory. Not everybody that is HIV positive can afford it, so we are begging the government to help people living with HIV, by making drugs and treatment procedures free. It is laughable when we are told that the drugs are free of charge, and when we get to the hospital we are told to pay for the procedures that I have mentioned.

Implications
Findings by The Guardian reveal that because of rising stigmatisation, many people living with HIV/AIDS are staying away from hospitals, while those who suspect their status do not make themselves available for examination. Because of all these, and the inability of many to access treatment early, more people are getting infected and dying from the virus.

This is also why some cases have remained undetected, a development that poses more danger to the country, as those who are unaware of their status could infect others, thereby increasing the spread of the virus.

Ike, who revealed an earlier encounter, which nearly ended her life said: “When I went to a laboratory to do another test to confirm my status, the lab scientists told me that people with the virus can neither get married nor have children. With that impression, I refused to go to the hospital or any other institution for treatment. I concluded that I would commit suicide at home one day.”

Ike who lost her husband to the virus continued: “Because of this stigmatisation people find it difficult to disclose their HIV status because once they do, the news spreads so fast and then sooner than later they are shut out of their families and the society. Where I reside now, I have kept my HIV status a big secret.

“Some people do not even believe that there is something like a discordant couple, where either of the partners is negative, while the other is positive. The reality is that when two people are dating and then one discloses his or her HIV status to the other, the relationship breaks up immediately because they do not believe that those who are positive can have children who are HIV negative,” she explained.

Ike added that her refusal to take treatment cost her two-month-old her life after she developed cough and died. This made her summon courage and head to head to the hospital for treatment.

Do you ever struggle with things like distraction, insomnia, easy weight gain or energy crashes? I sure have, at various times. From talking to lots of people about their health, I’ve realized probably all of us have these symptoms to some degree. I’ll explain how your mind can be a trigger of many of these symptoms and how you can help it work better.

I’ve proposed that most of our modern symptoms can be traced back to the stress response. This response was a good thing when we lived like cavemen and cavewomen, but in the modern world, it gets set off far too often in situations in which it is no longer helpful. If we can keep this stress response in check, we will feel happier, have better relationships and fewer health issues.

As hard as we try to manage the many events around us, our mind alone can be one of the biggest triggers of the stress response.

It’s Normal To Be Fearful

Imagine your great, great, great (1,000 more greats) grandmother roughly 20,000 years ago. She is fast asleep near a fire when she hears a branch break from the dark forest nearby. She could assume it was something harmless (like the wind) and go back to sleep, or she could feel fear and panic and alert the rest of her tribe to a possible predator.

Those who panicked easily felt more stress, but also survived better and produced easily-panicked offspring, like us.

Mark Twain said:

I . . . have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

It is important to realize that all of our minds are fearful. This is normal. The moment we are free of distraction or habit, our minds start trying to figure out around which corner the next danger might be lurking. These imagined fears can turn on the stress response, even when they are fleeting or below the level of awareness.

Sometimes these fears are so strong that they break into the surface of our awareness in the form of annoying and intrusive thoughts:

  • “That will never work.”
  • “They are going to laugh at me.”
  • “Who are you trying to kid?”
  • “I can’t stand the way my hair looks.”
  • “Wow, the last thing I said really sounded stupid.”

When I was in college, I needed to have roommates in order to pay the rent. As annoying as some of them were, none were as annoying as the daily, self-chatter I heard from my own mind.

The Present Moment

The more focused your mind is in the present, the less it can upset you with unwelcome, possible, future scenarios. As we move through the day, our minds will become more and more detached from the present.

You may have heard that spending hours a day, for decades, on meditation can help calm this internal chatter. I’ve trained in many types of meditation over the years. Some seemed as complex as I imagine brain surgery would be and took over an hour each day to do properly. My best intentions and discipline would carry me along for some time in these practices, but inevitably, life and my other interests would get in the way, so I’d soon be off track. Maybe you have gone through this pattern with meditation also.

The good news is we now know it doesn’t take heroic efforts to get major benefits. By doing nothing more than lying down and resting for a few minutes, you can transform your mind and lower your stress response. You’ll feel more alert and energized, better focused on your goals, have fewer headaches, less digestive symptoms and sleep better.

A Simple Technique

Try this crazy, simple technique for just five minutes each morning for the next week, and see how you feel:

  1. Set a timer for five minutes.
  2. Lie on your back.
  3. Focus your eyes on a spot on the ceiling.
  4. Count each time you breathe in.
  5. If you lose count, start over.

When the timer goes off, you’re finished. That’s it.

It Really Does Work!

In my clinic, I’ve seen that this simple technique lowers anxiety scores and improves the measured levels of stress hormones, sleep and short-term memory. Some people see benefits in the first few days!

The reason this works is because it trains your mind to stay present through thinking about your breath and visually watching a fixed point. It is brief enough that you don’t get antsy and agitated, as many can during prolonged, formal meditation. By having your eyes open, it also keeps your mind from wandering as easily.

I challenge you to test it for just two weeks. Watch the nature of your mental chatter as you go along, and see if it improves. You might be surprised how much better you feel when you don’t have to deal with so many of what Mark Twain called, “the troubles that never happened.”

Menopause and Sex Life. Not two words you necessarily associate together but actually, the menopause can have a profound effect on your sex life, and not in a good way.

If you’ve had a healthy sex drive up to this phase of your life, it can make you feel under pressure to continue your sex life at the same level as before. Unfortunately, your body has other ideas! For a lot of women, they just feel too tired and then guilty at the fact you’re saying ‘not tonight’ again.

Be assured though, it’s totally normal to not feel in the mood!

Your ovaries stop producing oestrogen which can cause vaginal dryness and make sex painful and difficult, and over time lessen your desire as it just feels too much like hard work.

Hot flushes and night sweats also don’t exactly put you in the mood and make bedtime a sexy place to be! And the weight you’ve gained is seriously affecting your confidence and making you feel pretty rubbish.

Add to that a dip in your testosterone levels, which plays a key role in a woman’s sex drive and sexual sensation, and you can understand why so many women in their 40’s and 50’s have a reduced sex drive. Especially as our sexual desires naturally decline with age anyway.

The good news is you don’t just have to suffer through and accept this as your lot!

There are things you can do to help boost your sex drive and put you in the mood.

Here are few tips:

1. Diet. Certain foods have been found to increase libido:

– Magnesium rich foods including green leafy vegetables, beans and pulses boost levels of your sex hormones.

– Phytoestrogens such as flaxseeds and soybeans naturally mimic oestrogen in your body and increase your sex drive

– Spinach, garlic and coconut, can help boost your testosterone levels which affect your libido

2. Herbs can also be beneficial in helping to boost your libido, including ginseng which helps to boost testosterone, ashwaganda increases blood flow to the clitoris and other female sexual organs and maca root helps to balance hormones and improve sexual experiences and satisfaction.

3. If the feeling is more psychological, due to low mood and a lack of confidence in yourself, then talking about it can really help. Whether that is to your partner, a friend or a health practitioner, know that it is really common and you are not alone.

4. Building strong emotional bonds with your partner, doing things like holding hands, talking and cuddling can help build connection and intimacy with your partner, and put you in the mood.

5. Lubricants can make sex easier and more enjoyable. Go for a water-based one as the most natural way to increase moisture and maintain your vagina’s natural PH.

6. Exercise helps by boosting stamina and strength, which in turn increases your confidence and sex drive. Go for a walk, join a dance class, just do something that you enjoy!

So it is just another natural and normal phase of life and, if you follow the above tips, you can work with it!

Deciding that you are now ready to quit smoking is only half the battle. Knowing where to start on your path to becoming smoke-free can help you to take the leap. We have put together some effective ways for you to stop smoking today.

Tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke are responsible for more than 480,000 deathseach year in the United States, according to the American Lung Association.

Most people are aware of the numerous health risks that arise from cigarette smoking and yet, “tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease” in the U.S.

Quitting smoking is not a single event that happens on one day; it is a journey. By quitting, you will improve your health and the quality and duration of your life, as well as the lives of those around you.

To quit smoking, you not only need to alter your behavior and cope with the withdrawal symptoms experienced from cutting out nicotine, but you also need to find other ways to manage your moods.

With the right game plan, you can break free from nicotine addiction and kick the habit for good. Here are five ways to tackle smoking cessation.

1. Prepare for quit day

Once you have decided to stop smoking, you are ready to set a quit date. Pick a day that is not too far in the future (so that you do not change your mind), but which gives you enough time to prepare.

broken cigarette on a calendar
Choose your quit date and prepare to stop smoking altogether on that day.

There are several ways to stop smoking, but ultimately, you need to decide whether you are going to:

  • quit abruptly, or continue smoking right up until your quit date and then stop
  • quit gradually, or reduce your cigarette intake slowly until your quit date and then stop

Research that compared abrupt quitting with reducing smoking found that neither produced superior quit rates over the other, so choose the method that best suits you.

Here are some tips recommended by the American Cancer Society to help you to prepare for your quit date:

  • Tell friends, family, and co-workers about your quit date.
  • Throw away all cigarettes and ashtrays.
  • Decide whether you are going to go “cold turkey” or use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or other medicines.
  • If you plan to attend a stop-smoking group, sign up now.
  • Stock up on oral substitutes, such as hard candy, sugarless gum, carrot sticks, coffee stirrers, straws, and toothpicks.
  • Set up a support system, such as a family member that has successfully quit and is happy to help you.
  • Ask friends and family who smoke to not smoke around you.
  • If you have tried to quit before, think about what worked and what did not.

Daily activities – such as getting up in the morning, finishing a meal, and taking a coffee break – can often trigger your urge to smoke a cigarette. But breaking the association between the trigger and smoking is a good way to help you to fight the urge to smoke.

On your quit day:

  • Do not smoke at all.
  • Stay busy.
  • Begin use of your NRT if you have chosen to use one.
  • Attend a stop-smoking group or follow a self-help plan.
  • Drink more water and juice.
  • Drink less or no alcohol.
  • Avoid individuals who are smoking.
  • Avoid situations wherein you have a strong urge to smoke.

You will almost certainly feel the urge to smoke many times during your quit day, but it will pass. The following actions may help you to battle the urge to smoke:

  • Delay until the craving passes. The urge to smoke often comes and goes within 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Deep breathe. Breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of three and exhale through your mouth for a count of three. Visualize your lungs filling with fresh air.
  • Drink water sip by sip to beat the craving.
  • Do something else to distract yourself. Perhaps go for a walk.

Remembering the four Ds can often help you to move beyond your urge to light up.

2. Use NRTs

Going cold turkey, or quitting smoking without the help of NRT, medication, or therapy, is a popular way to give up smoking. However, only around 6 percent of these quit attempts are successful. It is easy to underestimate how powerful nicotine dependence really is.

nicotine gum in a packet
NRTs can help you to fight the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking.

NRT can reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms you experience that may hinder your attempt to give up smoking. NRTs are designed to wean your body off cigarettes and supply you with a controlled dose of nicotine while sparing you from exposure to other chemicals found in tobacco.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved five types of NRT:

  • skin patches
  • chewing gum
  • lozenges
  • nasal spray (prescription only)
  • inhaler (prescription only)

If you have decided to go down the NRT route, discuss your dose with a healthcare professional before you quit smoking. Remember that while you will be more likely to quit smoking using NRT, the goal is to end your addiction to nicotine altogether, and not just to quit tobacco.

Contact your healthcare professional if you experience dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, fast or irregular heartbeat, mouth problems, or skin swelling while using these products.

3. Consider non-nicotine medications

The FDA has approved two non-nicotine-containing drugs to help smokers quit. These are bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix).

white tablets falling from a container
Bupropion and varenicline are non-nicotine medications that may help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you feel that you would like to try one of these to help you to stop smoking, as you will need a prescription.

Bupropion acts on chemicals in the brain that plays a role in nicotine craving and reduces cravings and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Bupropion is taken in tablet form for 12 weeks, but if you have successfully quit smoking in that time, you can use it for a further 3 to 6 months to reduce the risk of smoking relapse.

Varenicline interferes with the nicotine receptors in the brain, which results in reducing the pleasure that you get from tobacco use, and decreases nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline is used for 12 weeks, but again, if you have successfully kicked the habit, then you can use the drug for another 12 weeks to reduce smoking relapse risk.

Risks involved with using these drugs include behavioural changes, depressed mood, aggression, hostility, and suicidal thoughts or actions.

4. Seek behavioural support

The emotional and physical dependence you have on smoking makes it challenging to stay away from nicotine after your quit day. To quit, you need to tackle this dependence. Trying counselling services, self-help materials, and support services can help you to get through this time. As your physical symptoms get better over time, so will your emotional ones.

group of people at support meeting
Individual counselling or support groups can improve your chances of long-term smoking cessation.

Combining medication – such as NRT, bupropion, and varenicline – with behavioural support has been demonstrated to increase the chances of long-term smoking cessation by up to 25 percent.

Behavioral support can range from written information and advice to group therapy or individual counselling in person, by phone, or online. Self-help materials likely increase quit rates compared with no support at all, but overall, individual counseling is the most effective behavioral support method.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) provide help to anyone who wants to stop smoking through their support services:

  • LiveHelp online chat
  • Smoke-free website
  • SmokefreeTXT text messaging service
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram

Support groups, such as Nicotine Anonymous (NicA), can prove useful too. Nica applies the 12-step process of Alcoholics Anonymous to tobacco addiction. You can find your nearest NicA group using their website.

5. Try alternative therapies

Some people find alternative therapies useful to help them to quit smoking, but there is currently no strong evidence that any of these will improve your chances of becoming smoke-free, and, in some cases, these methods may actually cause the person to smoke more.

Some alternative methods to help you to stop smoking might include:

man comparing e-cigarette and cigarettes
E-cigarettes have had some promising research results in helping with smoking cessation.
  • filters
  • smoking deterrents
  • electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes)
  • tobacco strips and sticks
  • nicotine drinks, lollipops, straws, and lip balms
  • hypnosis
  • acupuncture
  • magnet therapy
  • cold laser therapy
  • Herbs and supplements
  • yoga, mindfulness, and meditation

E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are not supposed to be sold as a quit smoking aid, but many people who smoke view them as a method to give up the habit.

E-cigarettes are a hot research topic at the moment. Studies have found that e-cigarettes are less addictive than cigarettes, that the rise in e-cigarette use has been linked with a significant increase in smoking cessation, and that established smokers who use e-cigarettes daily are more likely to quit smoking than people who have not tried e-cigarettes.

The gains from using e-cigarettes may not be risk-free. Studies have suggested that e-cigarettes are potentially as harmful as tobacco cigarettes in causing DNA damage and are linked to an increase in arterial stiffness, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Quitting smoking requires planning and commitment – not luck. Decide on a personal plan to stop tobacco use and make a commitment to stick to it.

Weigh up all your options and decide whether you are going to join a quit-smoking class, call a quitline, go to a support meeting, seek online support or self-help guidance, or use NRTs or medications. A combination of two or more of these methods will improve your chances of becoming smoke-free.