New mother study creates concern out of normalcy
The question of postpartum depression is a very serious issue. Maternity leave is also an important issue for millions of mothers throughout the United States. But sometimes the reports from various agencies that have a vested interest in these issues seem to be biased to cause a sense of urgency beyond what is in their data.
I realize that I am only a man so I asked a friend, a mother of 3, for her input on my conclusions based on a summary of a report by Childbirth Connection. Let’s see whether you agree.
The report is based on a survey, New Mothers Speak Out Report Paints a Troubling Picture of American Women in Postpartum Period, which had 903 mothers that gave birth to one child in 2005. The mothers lived with their child thru 18 months.
My issues are with the following (and more in the summary):
“Many mothers grappled with ongoing physical and emotional health problems while caring for their baby. The women reported high rates of newly experienced problems in the first two months after birth. At six or more months after birth, substantial proportions of mothers were still feeling stressed (43%), had problems with weight control (40%), experienced sleep loss (34%), lack of sexual desire (26%) and backache (24%). Among those who had a cesarean birth, 31% reported numbness and 18% reported continued pain at the incision site after at least six months. One-third of mothers reported that during the first two months after birth, their postpartum physical health (33%) or emotional health (30%) interfered at least "some" with their ability to care for their baby, with 44% of all mothers reporting that physical and/or emotional health impairment had interfered with the care of their babies. A year after giving birth mothers reported a net weight gain of six pounds from their pre-pregnancy weight.”
Ok the silly point first. 6 pounds of weight is considered a vanity amount. It is not significant nor life threatening. It may not be as flattering as the pre-pregnancy weight but it hardly is a big deal outside of trying to be on a magazine cover.
Now the summary does not mention how many of the mothers in their report that felt stress and had sleep loss were first time mothers, or were under the age of 25. We also don’t know the breakdown of how many mothers held white-collar or blue-collar jobs. We do know that the women were between 18-45 and some held full-time or part-time employment.
But as far as I am familiar, anyone with a new baby experiences sleep loss and stress for months. Depending on the baby and the pattern the child develops, the degree of sleep loss and stress can vary, and greater sleep loss can create stress all by itself.
Lack of sexual desire also is a common result in the early months after a pregnancy and differs in degree with various women. It also has a connection to the father/husband and their acceptance of the new responsibilities and view of their partner.
Backache is also no surprise to me. The effort of picking up a child and carrying them repeatedly for hours and days is easily problematic for some women (and men) that were not in prime physical condition before the pregnancy. There is no indication of how many of the women were obese or severely out of shape before hand.
There is no indication of how many of the women were in lower income brackets. This is important because often those in the lower brackets receive inferior healthcare. This is unfair and important to identify. Yet it was not addressed.
Emotional health falls under stress to me.
So in all, while worded in a manner that might cause anyone to be shocked and worried, reviewing the data summary tells me that these women are all basically average and normal in their experiences. Rather than focusing effort on the normal points of post pregnancy, the report could have revealed some really important information. But as I said I am a man. Here is what my friend thought of the summary, and my initial thoughts.
I have to agree with Mike on the fact that a weight gain of 6 pounds after
18 months of caring for a baby is of no concern. If there was significant
weight gain or loss that could point to a real problem healthwise for the
mother, she should consult her physician on that. Keeping in a good physical
condition after giving birth is a good idea but it is not the end all
to end alls. You should expect the backaches, the sore muscles, the
bumps and bruise’s you will get from baby’s pinching and the picking
up and putting down of the baby on a regular basis.
Since the beginning of humanity, women have suffered sleep loss, stress,
lack of sexual interest and many other issues. This in no way has affected
the human race in an adverse way. But to make a problem out of things that
are a normal state of being after giving birth and spending 18 months
learning a completely new person that is going to develop their own
personalities is something to be expected.
As far as the lack of sexual interest is concerned the consideration of
working around a baby’s schedule and a parent’s work schedule fall into
play here. The exhaustive state of mind that a parent will be in may not
be conductive to sex for a while but given time things should go back to
In my opinion Mike points out many things that are important and were not
hit upon in the report. I feel that women should always talk to experienced
mom’s and friends to find out what can be done and where to go for information
and help like, the Women and Babies Network, or WIC (Women Infants and
Children). These are good places to gather information that will help
alleviate worry and stress healthy way.
Well it seems that I am not that far off. The summary of the report does not focus on the reality of postpartum depression, emphasizing and potentially misinforming some women – adding to any stress they might already experience.
Motherhood is something that should be celebrated. I can understand and support maternity leave. But I have an issue with reports that, in total or in part, equate normal experiences after the birth of a child with serious clinical issues. That I don’t believe benefits any person, though I’m sure it can help several organizations and corporations.
Do you agree as well?