I had the wonderful opportunity in July 2018 to be one of the keynote speakers at Boston University’s inaugural “Bridging the Chasm between Pregnancy and Women’s Health over the Life Course” conference. This was a special privilege for me because I have a toddler who just turned 3 years old and I am still on a path to healing from my birth experience. Unfortunately, I had a traumatic birth experience and have been suffering in silence since 2015. The conference provided me with the first opportunity to share my experience and the audience was extremely receptive and supportive.
To my surprise, I learned that birth trauma and postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder is more common than it should be given our technological advancements in modern medicine. It isn’t our fault. It was reassuring to be in a room with people working to make positive change for women’s health during and after pregnancy. Those people included midwives, various women’s health clinicians, academic researchers, community-based organization and government leaders, women’s health advocates, and mothers who had gestational diabetes and now live with type 2 or type 1 diabetes - all dedicated to ending birth trauma through actions and awareness. In America, too many of us fall through the cracks and are affected by postpartum depression, trauma, and ignorance or problems from diabetes. It’s certainly time to change the current status quo.
One of the most shocking bits of information I learned is that women’s pregnancy healthcare coverage packages are bundled, and that only a tiny percentage of that bundle (payment) goes toward postpartum care for the new mom. Since the payment is made at delivery, there is little incentive for providers to impress upon the new mother to return to the doctor’s office for the postpartum visit six weeks later. However, connecting with health care and support during the postpartum phase (also known as the 4th trimester) is extremely important for women who have been pregnant, especially women with gestational diabetes or other types of diabetes.
I left the conference feeling better than before I attended. I shared my experience with postpartum trauma in my opening remarks, including having two IVs (one in each arm) which resulted in being constrained while delivering my daughter, and requiring two reconstructive postpartum surgeries to repair the damage. While I am finally as physically healed from the experience as I can be, the emotional toll is heavy. I hadn’t known before this conference that many other women have suffered birth trauma as well, and that there are therapists dedicated to helping us recover.
We share so many connections as diabetes sisters, and pregnancy and gestational diabetes with later diabetes diagnosis is one of those areas where we can increase and strengthen our connections. I am looking forward to making stronger connections among all my diabetes sisters - those who are pregnant and have to add the worries of diabetes management on top of it, as well as those who live with diabetes management and have to add the worries of pregnancy on top of it.
Contributed by Phyllisa Deroze, PhD
Phyllisa is a South Florida native, Fullbright Scholar, and professor currently living in the UAE. She started blogging to share her experiences, make connections with other diabetics since she’s the first diabetic from both sets of grandparents’ lineage, and create a web presence that provides culturally competent information about the effects of diabetes in black communities. She blogs at DiagnosedNOTdefeated.com and is the founder of Black Diabetic Info (a website dedicated to providing accurate, culturally-competent information about diabetes in black communities). She is also member of the The Type 2 Experience, and has published articles on HealthCentral, Everyday Health, and Health Union.