Dear Hospital Staff: Your Tone, Words, and Treatment are Key to the New Mom’s Experience

The October 3, 2012 HuffPost Parents article titled “What Not to Say to a New Mother — Hospital Staff” by Meredith Fein Lichtenberg, CCE, caught my attention immediately as it appeared in my Facebook news feed.  Why did I feel I had to blog about it?  With my unforgettable one-week stay in the hospital after my daughter was born, I can tell you that my experiences with the hospital staff covered the spectrum from good to bad and every shade in between.  The details of my gnarly experience, including the lack of bedside manner I encountered, in the hospital (and with the healthcare professionals to whom I had entrusted my care before, during and after childbirth) are detailed fully in my book.

This article emphasizes the importance of careful choice of words and just plain being sensitive–or specifically, empathetic (i.e., try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes)–to each mother’s situation and feelings.  The first-time mother needs support and reassurance, and an experienced infant caregiver to address questions and concerns as they arise…NOT made to feel more anxious and/or guilty than she already might be feeling due to her lack of experience and fear of failing at her maternal duties.  There’s a way to provide guidance and not bump a brand new parent’s already high anxiety levels to an even steeper altitude.  You know what the combination of extreme fatigue and high levels of anxiety of a first-time parent amount to?  A greater tendency to feel overwhelmed at the newness of parenthood and all the decisions and responsibilities, uncertainty as to what to do to ensure their baby is okay, and fearful that something will go wrong.  A new mother doesn’t need for her first days of motherhood to begin on such a rocky footing.  And in fact, these negative feelings/experiences will only add to a new mother’s exhaustion and already vulnerable emotions and weakened physical state due to just having had a baby….and hormones tanking doesn’t help.  These factors are among the risk factors that can trigger PPD in some mothers.

Meredith ends this article with 7 tips for expectant parents.  She is all about empowering the expectant and new parents.  That’s what I like about her and so many others (childbirth educators, social workers, and therapists) I have met in the 6 years of my membership with Postpartum Support International.  The mission of these individuals is to support new mothers and their families.  With more and more support services being established and made accessible to mothers out there, my hope is that there will be fewer moms suffering from postpartum depression (PPD).  Click here on a past post on the importance of social support.

Meredith has a blog titled “A Mother is Born” and subsequent to her HuffPost article, she wrote a blog post titled “What Not to Say to a New Mother – Eleven Ways to Get it Right.”    I was excited upon discovering her blog because I see that she is a childbirth educator in addition to being an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and non-fiction writer (with Huffington Post, as you already know).  Why am I excited to see she is a certified childbirth educator?  Well, this is what we need more of, ladies (and gents)…..certified childbirth educators!!!  Click here to see more about her background and accomplishments, which are quite impressive to me.  Located in New York City, she provides classes for pregnant couplesservices for new moms, and training for childbirth and healthcare professionals

Meredith’s 11 tips have to do with the way to speak to the new mom that can mean a world of a difference to her.  For example, small gestures of the doctor (i.e., bedside manner), like a reassuring smile and taking the time to ask her how she is feeling and whether she has any concerns to show that he cares about her as a person rather than a mere number to be checked off a patient list as a matter of routine.

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2 thoughts on “Dear Hospital Staff: Your Tone, Words, and Treatment are Key to the New Mom’s Experience

  1. Completely agree! I never even realized how important this is until I had the experience with a PPMD. For the most part, I had a great hospital stay & really liked all the nurses but when Kennadie failed her hearing test twice-the nurse was talking to me about specialists, hearing loss etc. I was freaking out, crying & she didn’t even try to comfort me or reassure me or offer to test again. Nothing. I was all on my own trying to figure out what it all meant. I left the hpsital thinking my baby was deaf & not knowing what was going to happen, I was anxious & worried sick. I know there are much, much worse things than this-but it was traumatic for me & especially with going through the PPMD, not a good combination. Thanks for sharing this very important topic!

    • Hi Andrea! Yes, it is very important indeed. I was just talking to a bunch of ladies at a PSI fundraiser yesterday about how far we’ve come and how far we’ve still got to go to help improve the situation when it comes to diagnosing/treating moms with perinatal mood disorders. One of the biggest barriers, as I’m sure you remember from my book, is the silos (need improvement in referrals and healthcare providers talking to each other to benefit their patients) and BEDSIDE MANNER. One woman mentioned how there was a therapist who specializes in women’s postpartum mood disorders whose bedside manner is so bad I wonder how he stays in business. It seems that people are, bottom line, motivated by $$ rather than a true desire to help people That’s sad.

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