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Parent Talk.

Byline: By Shona Russell

Bringing up babies and children is never an easy job. Shona Russell aims to help you with practical guidance and information, based on her experience as a counsellor, a child-care writer and mother-of-three. If you've got an issue you think she can deal with, write to her here at the Chronicle. She will do her best to share some down-to-earth advice.

Q My four-year-old daughter has started to suck her thumb. She has always done it a little, usually when she is tired and dropping off to sleep. More recently, though, she has started to do it more and more, until she is walking along to school with her thumb in her mouth, and sitting watching TV doing it as well.

I am worried about the long-term effect on her teeth if she continues.

I am not sure why she has changed, either. I am concerned in case it is a sign she is worried about something, but I can't see any reason why she would be.

She is happy at school and has a lot of friends she enjoys playing with at weekends and after the school day. Her family all adore her and give her lots of attention.

She is healthy, and has a good appetite and a lot of interests and hobbies. Is there anything I can do to stop her making this more of a habit before it becomes too late to stop?

A. It's very possible your daughter will just stop sucking her thumb; she changed her habits recently, and can easily change back again without you really doing anything specific. If you keep nagging her and drawing attention to it you might make it worse, so keep off the subject if you can.

You might want to interest her in activities which require two hands, like drawing, painting or some other craft.

You're right to be aware that long term, it may distort the shape and angle of her teeth, and some children end up damaging the skin of their thumb or fingers, by the fact that it's always wet ( infections can happen.

But it is very difficult to "police" thumb and finger sucking without becoming very boring, and ineffective, too. My suggestion would be to cool it for the moment and see if she just stops spontaneously.

Q. I am worried I might be pregnant. What are the earliest symptoms? Do I have to wait until I have missed a period before I take a test? I feel sick and tired, but that could be anxiety. I will have a mix of feelings if it turns out I am pregnant. If I am, how soon should I see the doctor? There would be no way I would end the pregnancy.

A. Modern home pregnancy tests are very sensitive, and they can detect pregnancy hormones in the urine about 10 to 14 days after ovulation (when you would most likely conceive). As your period happens about 14 days after ovulation, some tests might indeed reveal a positive result before your missed period. However, a negative result at this time might just mean it's too early to tell, You can get a more reliable result if you wait until your period would have been due. Of course if you get your period, then you are not pregnant. Most women don't start experiencing symptoms such as breast tenderness, sickness and fatigue until after the first missed period.

You would normally see the doctor when you have a positive result with a home test, but antenatal care does not really begin until about 10 or 12 weeks. You can refer yourself straight to the midwife if you prefer. The doctor or midwife might want to give you advice on lifestyle, diet and so on, though, even at this early stage.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 11, 2005
Words:637
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