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The Fourth Trimester: Why New Moms Need More Than Six Weeks To Recover

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
Women who've experienced a healthy birth often get their first check-up six weeks postpartum, but medical professionals say that's likely not soon enough to best promote physical and mental recovery.


On today's program: The medical community is amending its thoughts on when and how new moms should be cared for; Doors Open Pittsburgh explores the city’s African American history; an expanding program teaches locals how to care for their environment. 

The baby is OK, but how is mom?
(00:00 — 16:30) 

Pregnancy is typically counted in three trimesters, and postpartum carewhen it’s discussed at alloften only lasts six weeks. But doctors say that mindset isn’t serving mothers anymore.

A trio of physicians with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital join The Confluence’s Megan Harristo talk about why they're focused on the “fourth trimester” and its critical role in promoting long-term physical and mental health:

  • Dr. Stacy Beck, maternal fetal medicine physician; 
  • Dr. Priya Gopalan, chief of psychiatry; and
  • Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, medical director of obstetrics. 

Gopalan advocates for mental health screenings and self-assessments well before the usual check-ups, as well as tools like telemedicine to meet mothers and families where they are.
Beck says both doctors and insurance companies need to reframe their idea of maternal care as something with an abrupt end. It's a continuum, she says, and too often focuses almost entirely on the health of the child.

“We have all been relatively remiss," Simhan says, "in not focusing on women themselves and (not) taking that opportunity to optimize maternal health.”

Doors Open Pittsburgh expands to 13 themed tours in 2020
(17:51 — 27:20) 

The nonprofit Doors Open Pittsburgh is expanding its annual tour of historic downtown buildings to 13 themed events across the next year. The guided and self-guided tours offer residents the opportunity to explore Pittsburgh’s music scene, its diverse religious spaces and its LGBTQ history, starting with a pair of events in February for Black History Month.

Founder and executive director Bonnie Baxter says the first offering this weekend will take guests inside three historically black churches in the Hill District—Macedonia Church, St. Benedict the Moor and Brown Chapel AME. She says all have served as centers of community, justice and freedom. 

“Not only were they a major achievement of the Reconstruction era, but they assumed a leadership role during the civil rights movement (and) they have also served as a link between black and white communities,” Baxtor says. “We want to bring people in, open the doors and have them see it from a different perspective.”

Next up is the Freedom Seekers tour, which takes visitors inside three spaces believed to be stops on the underground railroad. Tickets for both are available online.

Taking a crash course in environmental preservation
(27:25 — 38:44)

With a curriculum tailored to Western Pennsylvania, the Master Naturalist program is hoping to train volunteers on topics like basic ecology and native species with a focus on conservation. Joining The Confluence to discuss the experience are:

  • Maeve Rafferty, Master Naturalist regional coordinator;
  • Lindsay Dill, marketing communications director at the Allegheny Land Trust; and,
  • Ray Morris, a graduate of the Master Naturalist program.  

The $400 program consists of weekly classes and four field trips, and Rafferty says a limited number of scholarships are available. She says 400 Pennsylvanians have completed the training and many graduates go on to volunteer with the program. Applicants are not required to have previous experience with conservation.
People who'd like to train in Allegheny County can apply online. Training in Armstrong and Westmoreland counties is expected to begin this fall. 

90.5 WESA’s Caroline Bourque and Caldwell Holden contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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