Thank You Serena Williams for Speaking Out on How Childbirth Can Be Life-Threatening!

The journey of motherhood is so unpredictable. Some women have a wonderful pregnancy and then a hellish birth. Others have a healthy pregnancy and birth, but somewhere down the road run into a rough patch. And still some women have multiple children, seemingly without a hitch. Each woman’s story is personal and individual to her. One thing that is shared amongst us is that we each put our lives on the line during childbirth and those decisions have great potential to impact our health.

Childbirth is a unique kind of mission that is rarely talked about. It is a battle. Comparable to going off to fight in a war, you don’t know the physical toll it may take. For a soldier, it is understood that there is the potential for physical injury, but becoming a mother? Not at all. Many people assume that because so many women birth babies that it is easy, but just because it is common does not make it easy or simple. As a women’s health specialist, author and Doctor of Acupuncture and Asian Medicine, I am committed to improving the health of mothers and promoting awareness of a fuller picture of motherhood.

While I was so sorry to hear of the intense health complications that Serena Williams had during and after giving birth, I also knew it would be helpful to have a celebrity talk about what I sometimes refer to as a hidden truth of motherhood. Thank God that her doctors listened to her and treated her appropriately. Thank God that she was able to get the care and assistance that she needed. But what about those women who don’t?

Childbirth is an amazing, wondrous, unparalleled experience and simultaneously can be life-threatening. It can be traumatic emotionally and physically. I too had a life-threatening birth. One that included hemorrhaging and a full tear of my perineum. The birth itself was intense, and as time went on I became sick with a variety of health conditions– things that I had never had until after having my beautiful child. I learned that what I had was an often-not-talked-about and sometimes-debated-condition called postnatal depletion.

Postnatal depletion, also referred to as postpartum exhaustion/fatigue, Depleted Mother Syndrome, or Postpartum Nutritional Depletion is a collection of challenging health issues that mothers may experience after giving birth. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to: memory disturbances, difficulty concentrating, emotional fluctuations, hormonal imbalances, fatigue, joint issues, autoimmune and thyroid conditions, etc. Of particular note is that if left unaddressed, its effects can negatively impact the health of the mother in the short and long term. For me, sometimes my wrist would go out and it would be very hard to hold my baby and that was the least of my health problems. For years I suffered with a host of illnesses, some were life-threatening. I vowed that if I made it through, that I would write a book about my journey and I did.

Though writing my book, A Taste Of Our Own Medicine was therapeutic for me, the best thing about it has been to see the look on other mother’s faces when they said that they could relate to it. Even today mothers say how much they love the book, that it speaks to them and how helpful it is.

Vogue, January 10, 2018

I am committed to providing a more complete and holistic understanding of motherhood and the essential support that is required. Here is a template that references things that mothers and families can do to prepare for a new baby. This includes compiling things like hours of availability of one’s doula, contact information of friends and families that have agreed to help and diaper service information.

“The veil around women’s reproductive health, must be raised so we can all see clearly and be able to help and strengthen all aspects of woman’s reproductive health” (from A Taste Of Our Own Medicine). Our healing is in our stories and is essential in creating the space that is needed to improve maternal health. It is also a vital part of increasing awareness around the fullness and complexities of this sacred role. Please feel free to share your story with me confidentially here.