In 2008, Childbirth Connection, a not-for-profit organization that specializes in improving maternal health care, published New Mothers Speak Out, National Survey Results Highlight Women's Postpartum Experiences. This report is drawn from data collected in two national surveys: Listening to Mothers II, and Listening to Mothers II Postpartum. The new report gives us an in-depth look at pregnancy and the postpartum experience from birth through the first 18 months after delivery.
The data tells us that a large number of new mothers grapple with persistent emotional and physical health issues as they care for their babies. The first two months after delivery generated the highest number of problems never experienced before. Half a year after the birth, significant numbers of moms were still stressed out (43%), couldn't get their weight under control (40%), had sleep deprivation (34%), had no sexual desire (26%), and had backaches (24%).
In those women who had delivered by cesarean, 31% were reporting numbness and 18% had persistent pain at the site of the incision, when 6 months or more had already elapsed from the time of the surgery. A full one-third of the women felt that their postpartum emotional health (30%) and physical health (33%) got in the way of their ability to care for their babies. Overall, 44% of the women surveyed reported that emotional or physical health issues had a negative impact on their ability to care for their babies. A year after delivery, mothers said they had gained an overall 6 pounds over their weight before pregnancy.
The survey used well-accepted diagnostic tools to screen the participants for signs of postpartum depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the experience of childbirth. The tools revealed that a sizeable number of the mothers were experiencing depressive symptoms and PTSD even several months after their deliveries. “Postpartum mothers experience a troubling burden of physical and emotional health challenges after giving birth. Although many of these problems abate over time, far too many women were still experiencing them from 6 to 18 months after birth. With more than 4.3 million births each year in the United States, it is an urgent priority to better understand the reason for these challenges, their implications for women and their families, ways to prevent distress and morbidity, and ways to help women and families before they experience detrimental effects,” said the Executive Director of Childbirth Connection Maureen Corry, MPH.