Introducing a Blog Series on Maternal Health From Research Scientist Mothers
Lots of pomp and circumstance greet you when you cross a finish line of a marathon. You are congratulated, high-fived, cheered, and handed water, food, or flowers. After all, you have accomplished something worth celebrating; pushing your body to ridiculous limits. It is a remarkable feat.
When I completed a similar achievement, I was bleeding profusely, shivering to the point where my teeth felt like they were shattering, unable to walk after losing feeling in my legs, and in total shock. Then I was handed a slimy five pound baby.
Motherhood is widely recognized to be a beautiful experience. Indeed, it is likely the most fulfilling aspects of my life. But a lesser known characteristic is that having a baby inflicts as much if not more injury to a woman’s body as running a marathon. Researchers from the University of Michigan found that the trauma of childbirth can result in stress fractures, pelvic muscle tears, and severe muscle strain. And physical injuries are only half the battle, the mental distress of labor, delivery, and early parenting can be substantial. Birth experiences themselves can be traumatic: women may undergo medical interventions they never planned for or even consented to such as emergency C-sections or episiotomies.
These medical events and injuries during pregnancy and childbirth can ultimately have long-term negative effects on a woman’s overall health. But the bandwidth dedicated to maternal health is surprisingly narrow among businesses, media, and researchers, as most focus on baby centric themes – i.e., baby clothes, baby names, baby health outcomes. Though some attention is beginning to be paid to the experience of moms, such as attention to the “fourth trimester” immediately after delivery, it remains peripheral to mainstream conversations and largely focused around the unacceptably high rate of maternal deaths – two-thirds of which could have been prevented.
Fundamentally, the approach to maternal recovery requires further attention. Going into a pregnancy, women are encouraged to spend time creating healthy spaces, diets, routines, and crafting aspirational birth plans. But, what is missing from the education being provided to women is how to plan for the postpartum period — when you are bleeding, fatigued, confused, and the hardest part of your day is strategizing how to take a shower, to say nothing of keeping a small person alive and happy around the clock.
The purpose of this blog series is to introduce these topics to anyone who is interested in becoming a mother, anyone who is a mother, anyone who has experienced pain or loss in motherhood, and anyone who is a supporter of mothers. Join us as we discuss evidence from experts in the field such as midwives, doulas, obstetricians, and mental health providers. Additionally, we will report data and stories from changemakers who are expanding the maternal health narrative to be increasingly mama-focused.
Our series is designed to empower women, families, and communities through evidence-based writing.
Come join us in understanding just how much it takes to produce a human.
About the Authors
Shilpa Londhe, PhD and Jessica Holzer, PhD
Co-Directors of Research and Advocacy at Be Her Village, Inc.
Shilpa Londhe, Ph.D. is a social scientist trained in health services research and public health. The goals of her research are to improve population health and create value in delivery systems. She earned her Ph.D. from the Heller School for Social Policy at Brandeis University, a master’s degree in Health Administration and Policy from Cornell University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Yale School of Public Health. Dr. Londhe has over a decade of health care experience spanning hospitals, pharmaceuticals, information technology, consulting, and governmental agencies. She is currently an adjunct associate professor in the Health Administration graduate program at Hofstra University.
Jessica Holzer, Ph.D. is an expert in community-based participatory research approaches whose research focuses on community well-being, especially for mothers. Her work on maternal morbidity has been recognized by the American Public Health Association. She earned her Ph.D. in health policy and bioethics from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a master’s degree in bioethics from Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Holzer is an Assistant Professor and the Program Director for the BS in Health Sciences at the University of New Haven.