Most of us envision a blissfully happy time, cuddling our new bundles of joy after the long months of pregnancy. This happy picture is especially common if you have wanted a baby for a while. However, a new survey of women shortly after giving birth paints a very different picture of the days after the baby arrives.
The survey was conducted by Childbirth Connection, an organization devoted to improving the quality of care during pregnancy. The survey was conducted twice, once about the child birth experiences of the women. The second was conducted six months later and looked at the post partum experiences of the same women.
The results of the survey showed that women experienced ongoing symptoms of stress and emotional health. What may be surprising is the symptoms were reported to continue six months or more after the birth of the baby. Of the women participating, 43 percent reported feeling stressed, 40 percent had ongoing weight issues, and 34 percent lacked sexual desire.
One alarming result of the survey was that over 40 percent of the women reported problems in their emotional health or physical health that were continuing to interfere with their ability to take care of the baby. A large number of the women (73%) reported they were the main caregiver of the baby. About one quarter of the women reported little or no support from their partner in caring for the baby or themselves.
The results of this survey add weight to the idea that better screening is needed in the post partum period for depression or other physical or emotional symptoms. At the present time, there is no screening conducted for most women. The most you can hope for is a “How are you feeling?” from the doctor at your prenatal visit. This is completely inadequate for treating the women experiencing these issues.
One reason it is not adequate is a large number of women don’t report mild to moderate symptoms. There remains a feeling among some women that it is not natural to feel this way or they are somehow at fault or bad mothers for experiencing stress and depression after the baby is born. This is meant to be a happy time and if they are not happy, they are doing something wrong.
This attitude needs to be changed and the medical community is the best place to start. Women need more education on the symptoms of post partum depression. This education needs to include statistics showing how prevalent the problem is in society and that there is no blame to be placed on the mother for feeling this way. By conducting screening and educating parents, doctors could reach more women suffering in silence.