Moms-to-be find themselves in the doctor’s office most weeks throughout their pregnancies. But in the fourth trimester, the period after giving birth, many are shifting their focus to their babies to the detriment of their own health.
According to a recent study by Orlando Health, up to 40 per cent of women say they feel overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed after giving birth but are failing to show up to their first postpartum appointment.
Yet another survey released in May by Healthy Women found that 46 per cent of U.S. moms feel stressed about their personal health, compared to 26 per cent who reported they were stressed about their child’s.
Despite the internal stress, there is a clear lack of follow-through to seek medical help for their own health issues. And that’s a fairly consistent trend with moms in Canada, too, especially within marginalized communities where the rates tend to be even higher, Callan Buckshot, program assistant with the Baby Bundle project in Toronto, told HuffPost Canada.
The joint initiative between Seventh Generation Midwives and Living Well House at St. Michael’s Hospital works specifically to track and support Indigenous mothers-to-be.
“They do rarely seek out postpartum care for a variety of reasons,” Buckshot said.
She notes that from her experience, her clients have struggled to trust doctors due to discriminatory or harmful systemic practices. They have also, like many marginalized groups, often not been taken seriously by healthcare professionals in the past.
“We are trying to demonstrate a fuller supported pregnancy produces positive birth outcomes and to continue those positive birth outcomes they do need support postpartum,” she adds.
When mothers do book an appointment, they are not always getting the support they need.
Most moms in the Healthy Women survey noted that the first week after giving birth was the most stressful, with the delivery and first-year following closely behind. However, 30 per cent reported that they felt no support from their medical team in the first week or any time after that.
Maven, a digital clinic for women, recently surveyed 700 new U.S. moms who experienced perinatal mood disorders and found that 54 per cent were not asked about their mental health during or after their pregnancies. And 30 per cent of those who opened up were not given appropriate options to address their concerns.
It’s not just about mental health
The need for postpartum care goes beyond mental health. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends comprehensive follow-up care that “include a full assessment of physical, social, and psychological well-being.”
Outside of the doctors office, staying as active, rested, and well fed as possible will benefit both a mom and her baby, the Public Health Agency of Canada notes.
So as hard as it may be to squeeze in time to take care of yourself in between diaper changes and feeding schedules — try.
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