After having a kid, new moms can be stressed. A new baby means changes happen to your body during pregnancy, but you're also now trying to care for a newborn while simultaneously trying to take care of yourself — plus, those bodily changes aren't over just yet. A new study, though, looked at how stress in new moms may cause long-term health risks. They found that although all moms experience stress, the levels of it had a lot to do with race and class.
The study appeared in the Dec. 14, 2018 edition of the American Journal of Perinatology and included women from many different racial and ethnic backgrounds who were evaluated in five different health care settings across the country, as Virginia Tech News noted. For the study, scientists and members of the community helped instruct clinicians to record blood pressures, heart rates, cholesterol profiles, body mass indexes, waist-hip ratios, and other biomarkers six months after giving birth and then again at the one year mark, as outlined by EurekAlert!.
Some women were also assessed before they give birth or even before they became pregnant, as reported by Virginia Tech News. At clinical sites in places including Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina, readings were taken to examine the post-delivery effects of pregnancy on the mothers' cardiometabolic risks, the outlet also noted.
What they found was fascinating: According to EurekAlert!, the study of over 2,400 low-income women found that black women undergo more physical "wear-and-tear" during the first year after giving birth than Latina and white women. And this difference can have lasting health effects on a woman's health.
Sharon Landesman Ramey, the author of the paper, said, according to MedicalXpress, "All mothers are affected by stress, but low-income women and especially African-American and Hispanic women have more adverse health-risk profiles during their children's first years of life."
During childbirth, black women experience more trauma than others. Black women are three times more likely to die from childbirth-related causes, as reported by HuffPost. According to CDC data, white women in the United States experience about 12 deaths per every 100,000 live births; for black women, that number is about 40.
Black women are also twice as likely to suffer from severe complications during labor. In addition, studies have noted the impact of medical racism on black women's sexual and reproductive health. Knowing this, it's not entirely surprising to see that black women experience great physical effects due to stress in the year after childbirth.
This study itself was "extraordinary" because it utilized community members in addition to health care providers and scientists, as noted by Landesman Ramey, according to MedicalXpress, who went on to add, "The hope is that when people realize health care providers, citizen activists, and neighbors approved the work and contributed to it, they will have more confidence in the information and it will be shared in a good way, to improve health outcomes."
Researchers also found that breastfeeding seemed to benefit new moms' health 12 months postpartum. They believed, according to EurekAlert!, it could be "a cumulative effect reflecting longer durations of breastfeeding compounded by a better socioeconomic status for women who can afford to breastfeed for longer periods."
Some level of stress is normal for new moms, but it's important to note how other social factors can further exacerbate stress and put a mother's health at risk.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.