Long-Term Postpartum Issues

Back in the year 2008, a not-for-profit organization called Childbirth Connection, which is dedicated to improvements in maternal health care, published a report entitled: New Mothers Speak Out, National Survey Results Highlight Women's Postpartum Experiences. The report draws on data that was gathered during two nation-wide surveys: Listening to Mothers II, and Listening to Mothers II Postpartum. When the body of this work is viewed as a whole, we get a very good, in-depth picture of how women experience pregnancy and the postpartum period through the first year and a half after delivery.

Poignant Data

Perhaps the most poignant piece of data to arise from this work is the fact that new mothers are battling lingering emotional and physical issues at the same time that they must provide care to their babies. Mother found that the first 8 weeks after the birth brought the largest number of problems never before encountered. Six months after the delivery, large numbers of mothers were still feeling major stress (43%), were unable to get their weight back under control (40%), were sleep deprived (34%), had no libido (26%), and suffered from chronic backaches (24%).

For women who had their babies by cesarean operation, 31% still had numbness and 18% continued to feel pain at the incision site after half a year or more after the surgery. Up to one-third of the respondents said that their emotional health (30%) and their physical health (33%) affected their ability to tend to their infants. A total of 44% of the women said that either physical or emotional issues had a detrimental effect on their ability to take care of their babies. A year after the birth, the mothers reported they had gained a total of 6 pounds from their pre-pregnant weight.

PTSD Symptoms

The survey was designed to screen the respondents for symptoms of postpartum depression as well as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the trauma of childbirth. A significant number of the mothers were found to be suffering from PTSD and depressive symptoms, even many months after delivery. The executive director of Childbirth Connection, Maureen Corry, MPH, states that mothers in the postpartum period are sinking under a huge burden of mental and physical health issues. Though some of the problems will disappear with the passage of time, too many women are still suffering symptoms half a year to a year and a half after delivery.

There are 4.3 million births in the United States each year. For this reason, Corry believes there is an urgent need to learn the reasons for these lingering challenges and how they impact on mothers and their families. Ways must be found to alleviate the misery and distress of these moms before more serious issues can accumulate.