Moms. Let’s talk about the Duchess of Cambridge. I mean really talk about it.
She looked great. The mom of three stepped out of the hospital with her hair perfectly styled, makeup looking flawless. She was even in heels! And that little baby in her arms slept soundly.
But this isn’t reality. And I’m not talking about the fact that she looked good.
This isn’t reality for thousands of mothers in the U.S. each year who end up back in the hospital or even die because they don’t get the care they need after baby arrives.
According to NPR, more than 50,000 new moms get life-threatening complications after birth in the U.S. every year. As many as 700 women die each year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Things happen, right? Not like this. The New York Times reports the U.S. has one of the highest maternal death rates in the developed world.
It gets worse. Black mothers are three to four times more likely to die after childbirth than their white neighbors. And this isn’t about money or education. It happens to women with Ph.Ds, master degrees. Even world-famous athletes find themselves having to fight to be heard in the doctor’s office, as Serena Williams told Vogue.
This should outrage you. You should be angry. Livid. Yelling at your computer screen right now.
So now – what can be done about it?
This week the American College of Obstetricians released new recommendations for taking care of new moms. The big message – the doctor needs to see the patients more. Instead of one checkup at six weeks and a “see ya til the next baby!”, these doctors say, “Postpartum care should become an ongoing process… with services and support tailored to each women’s individual needs.”
Yes, pregnancy can be scary. And childbirth complicated. But of those 700 maternal deaths, most happen after the baby is born. There are physical concerns like blood clots, hypertension, or heart problems. But mom’s mental state is also fragile. She’s stressed, tired, emotional, sometimes even depressed.
NPR reports 40% of women skip that one postpartum visit. There are a lot of reasons. It’s too expensive. They don’t have the energy. The baby is taking up too much of their time. Or they’re too busy already being back at work.
Doctors now want to see woman back in their doctor’s office anywhere from three days to three weeks after giving birth. Then moms needs to go back as often as needed. The goal – a final but full assessment at 12 weeks postpartum.
What Can I Do?
Our country needs to rethink how we treat moms. While they all get their act together, there are things we can do, too.
For one – don’t ignore your gut. If you’re not feeling right, call your doctor. Your infant is important, but so are you. That new baby needs his mom to be feeling his best.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your friend wants to clean your house, let her. If your mother-in-law wants to babysit so you can nap, get to bed. You need your sleep and your sanity.
And friends – watch out for the new moms in your life. Be her health advocate. Drive her to those follow-up appointments. And by all means, cuddle that baby while she’s talking to the doctor.
Finally, don’t hold yourself to realistic standards. Yes, the Duchess did look ridiculously amazing post birth. You could, too, if you had a team of professional stylists with you at all times. (I’m not mad, just a touch jealous.) But we shouldn’t be worrying about why our hair didn’t look like that, or how she found the strength to put on those heels.
We should be worrying about our sisters, daughters, friends and neighbors. Are they getting the care they need to survive? If not, what can we do about it? We must take better care of our moms.