According to the Orlando Health survey of 1,229 women conducted last month, 57 percent of women younger than 45 were more likely to experience anxiety or depression after giving birth, compared with 31 percent who were older than 45.
The survey found that 63 percent of women were concerned about their own health just as much as they were about their infant’s well-being. But 26 percent didn’t have a good plan for their post-delivery health management; in fact, 37 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds weren’t making their own health a priority. Approximately 37 percent felt embarrassed about what was going on with their bodies after giving birth.
About 20 percent of women experience perinatal mood disorders, such as postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, according to Postpartum Support International.
Preparing for the ‘Fourth Trimester’
In an interview with BabyCenter, Megan Gray, M.D., an ob-gyn at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, said women must focus on their own health after delivery just as much as they do on their baby’s well-being. She wants to see more healthcare providers include the “fourth trimester” as part of prenatal education to better prepare women.
You may not know what you’ll need in the weeks after you deliver. Kristin Tully, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine Center for Maternal and Fetal Health, said it’s a good idea to have a lactation consultant or emotional support resources in mind. Choose a few providers, and then you have resources ready should you need them.
Is “fourth trimester” just a buzz phrase? Not really. Humans are born premature compared to other animals, Jennie Bever, Ph.D., a lactation consultant from Arizona, told our site in an interview.
“During that time, moms are becoming moms, and it’s a dramatic transition — physically, mentally, and emotionally,” she said. “They go through a kind of breaking up with themselves. The person they were before they’re never going to be again, and that can be pretty jarring.”
Bever pointed out that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommendations for postpartum care, but they haven’t been put into practice. "Doctors may not ask women about their postpartum life or listen when they do express their concerns. Women’s healthcare providers may lack information about postpartum obstacles, such as moodiness and anxiety, breastfeeding, and pelvic-floor performance. Some mothers lose healthcare coverage 60 days after they have their babies, creating a gap in care," Bever added.
A CDC report noted that about 700 American women die each year up to a year after delivery of cardiovascular conditions, infections, hemorrhages, and other pregnancy-related complications. The deaths could be prevented with proper medical intervention in about 60 percent of these cases, the researchers contend.
Helping New Moms
To deal with the challenges of new motherhood, some women may need therapy or medication. Others may just need help with housework or a fresh meal delivered.
“Everyone is different and will need different forms of support depending upon her individual circumstances and how she absorbs information,” explained Serena Chen, M.D., a fertility specialist at The Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas in New Jersey. “This cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution.”
“Women need to put themselves first at least some of the time,” said Diana Hoppe, M.D., a gynecologist from California. "As women, we tend to put everyone else's needs, including a newborn’s, before ours," Hoppe added. "While newborns need care, feeding, and sleep, so do new moms. Women can't take care of others if they don't take care of themselves. It's not selfish —it's self-compassion."
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