Let’s take a moment to discuss a little thing called bedside manner, shall we? Bedside manner is, essentially, a doctor’s attitude toward their patient. Some doctors are wonderfully amicable, while others can be, well, not. And while you shouldn’t weigh a person’s professionalism on how friendly they are (some folks just don’t have it in them), if they are exceptionally rude or otherwise awful, perhaps they need to be called out — especially when it comes to OB-GYNs and midwives. I have a feeling you'll be horrified to hear the downright awful things medical providers have said to postpartum moms, but I think acknowledging this problem is the only way we, as a society, can fix it. So, here we are: acknowledging.
It's pretty common for new moms to find themselves in a particularly volatile state postpartum. Hormones are shifting. Your life has changed drastically as you learn to care for another human being more than you've ever cared for yourself. You're sleep deprived. You're recovering from childbirth. I mean, it’s rough. So OB-GYNs, nurses, and midwives all need to mind their Ps and Qs when it comes to how they care for us postpartum moms. For example, when I lost my first baby, I had to (quite unfortunately) visit my OB-GYN for a postpartum checkup. It was already an awful situation. I was grieving, experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety, and in a room full of pregnant women. I asked if they could put me in a separate room, but the powers that be wouldn’t allow it. After waiting over two hours to see my OB, his manner was jovial and candid. He told me many women lose their first babies, and that I should be just fine having another. No big deal.
No big deal. No big deal? You can imagine my rage at this man and his lousy way with words, as though the birth and death of my daughter at five months gestation was nothing more than a hiccup. Awful, right? What’s worse is that I’m not the only one who’s experienced this kind of horrific treatment from a postpartum care provider. So if you’ve got the stomach for it, here are a few other hellish stories that will make you think long and hard about who you trust with your post-birth care:
“‘It can't be your thyroid. You just ate too many cream puffs and now you have to face the music.’ It was my thyroid.”
“‘If my students were to just see your vagina right now, they'd guess it was the vagina of a 70-year-old woman,’ [is what the doctor said] to me a few months after delivery. I was getting checked for a yeast infection.”
“A couple of hours after my very quick, traumatic birth, my midwife came in spouting off about ‘my next baby.’ It felt so, so insensitive to be pushing aside what I just went through and assuming that there would even be a ‘next baby.’"
“After my third, at my six-week checkup, my male OB-GYN walked in and immediately commented on how I’m ‘successfully losing the baby weight.’ Since when the hell did he think that was acceptable to bring up? Nobody asked for his opinion, because it really shouldn’t matter.”
“‘Guess you're gonna have to try for a girl.’”
“My OB actually said that I shouldn't have asked one of the nurses for reassurance that I would be able to have the baby vaginally while I was pushing. (It was a super long induction with no end in sight, and I'm apparently ‘too needy’ when my vag is out and I'm trying to push out a baby). She said it in an, ‘Oh, by the way,’ kind of tone, but the fact that she brought it up six weeks later made me think it was a big deal and like I had done something wrong. I still feel bad about it.”
“My daughter was born with a severe congenital heart defect, and at my six week appointment, she was still hospitalized and not doing well (the very next day, we listed her for a heart transplant). I was talking to my OB about it and he said, ‘Yeah, that's rough. Those kids... Their quality of life is just...," and he trailed off and shrugged, then finished, ‘not good.’
I never went back to him again. Joke's on him, though. My daughter is six years post-transplant and f*cking thriving. I'm considering scheduling an appointment with this guy for my next annual just so I can tell him off.”
“Not at my check-up, but 10 days postpartum. I was sick and knew something was off, so I called my midwife. She didn’t remember me, and said something about how busy things had been in the last few weeks. OK, fine. But then she shrugged off my symptoms and told me I probably had a virus. After multiple calls to her, I went to my general practitioner and discovered that I had an infection that I had very likely contracted in the hospital. When I called them to let them know what was going on, she told me that never happens postpartum. So yeah, I used a different practice the next time around.”
“My old OB came in at my two week check up and said he barely recognized me with my clothes on. I spent most of my labor with only a sports bra, so I'm assuming he was making a wisecrack about that. Regardless, it was super inappropriate.”
“I had been looking forward to my six week check up after my first because I was going through some gnarly postpartum anxiety, but my OB went on maternity leave herself and the OB covering for her just dismissed my concerns and said, ‘I’m sure it’s nothing, just take a few walks and some vitamin D.’ So I went through another two years of anxiety.
My second was born six years later, and I’m now 100 percent certain I had postpartum anxiety that could’ve been avoidable (or at least) treatable."
“It's not postpartum depression. You just need to lose weight and then you'll be happy.”
“At my six week postpartum appointment, I told my OB that I thought maybe I had thrush. She said that she never had kids and never breastfed, so she wouldn't know. And that I should talk to the lactation consultant (who, by the way, wouldn't have been able to prescribe anything for me). I was sure I had it a week later and made an appointment with another doctor in the practice. She said, ‘Oh you poor thing! Too bad they didn't catch it at your six week appointment.’ I was so emotional over the whole thing I couldn't even tell her that I had tried to.”
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