Northwestern Medicine program is designed to help moms heal faster after childbirth
Meredith Welsh and her husband anxiously awaited the arrival of their first child late last year. The 35-year-old attorney gave birth to her daughter in November; following the delivery, Welsh was told that she had a severe laceration due to her prolonged labor process. It was then that Welsh’s obstetrician suggested she visit the Northwestern Medicine® Helping Healing After Delivery Clinic.
Designed to help new moms receive specialized care sooner than a standard six-week postpartum appointment, Northwestern’s Helping Healing After Delivery Clinic is a unique program in Chicago focused on the postpartum care of women who experience pelvic floor ailments. The clinic is modeled after the University of Michigan Health System’s program, the first of its kind, where Christina Lewicky-Gaupp, MD
, urogynecologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and medical director of the Helping Healing After Delivery Clinic, completed her specialized training.
“Oftentimes women receive postpartum care, but don’t follow up with their obstetrician until six weeks post-delivery,” said Lewicky-Gaupp, who is also an assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology-urogynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
. “Many issues can arise in the first few weeks after having a baby, and through our program and working with the patient’s primary obstetrician, we help new moms with any issues that may arise after a more complicated childbirth.”
Welsh describes her experience as non-critical, but felt her muscles were weak which caused her to continue to urinate when she stood. “It was really helpful for me to have the extra support of an expert at a time when so many things were unknown,” said Welsh. “My first appointment with Dr. Lewicky-Gaupp was a week after I delivered my daughter and now I realize how critical it was to make this a priority sooner rather than later.”
Since its inception in September 2011, Lewicky-Gaupp and her colleagues Lisa Labin Johnson, MD
, chief of the division of urogynecology and medical director of the Integrated Pelvic Health program, and Maureen Sheetz, APN, have treated more than 250 patients in conjunction with Northwestern’s obstetrics and gynecology physicians. The specialists, who have completed a three-year accredited Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery fellowship, care for women who have required a surgical intervention or experienced a significant tear during delivery. The team also treats pelvic floor ailments including new urinary or fecal incontinence, difficulty emptying their bladder or other pelvic floor issues.
“Patients like Meredith are treated by one of our urogynecologists as early as the day after hospital discharge,” said Lewicky-Gaupp. “We hope for optimal recovery, with a plan that we coordinate together with the patient’s primary obstetrician.”
Shortly after the program began, Lewicky-Gaupp pioneered the FORCAST: For Optimal Recovery: Care After Severe Tears study which currently has more than 150 patients enrolled. Women who suffer third or fourth degree lacerations during childbirth qualify and are able to enroll bedside in the postpartum unit, with an initial appointment at the clinic after they are discharged.
After visits with Lewicky-Gaupp at one week, three weeks, six weeks, three months and six months post-delivery, Welsh is thankful for a positive outcome. “This clinic was definitely a life changer for me; I am now 100 percent as if I never went through labor.” said Welsh. “I feel very lucky to be a part of the program and encourage anyone who has complications to see a pelvic floor specialist early on.”
“The birth of a child can be a hectic and overwhelming time for new moms, and pelvic floor complications are not always addressed,” added Lewicky-Gaupp. “Women should know there is help available to allow them to return to a comfortable lifestyle.”
Northwestern Medicine® is the shared vision that joins Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and the Feinberg School in a collaborative effort to transform medicine through quality healthcare, academic excellence and scientific discovery.
For more information about Northwestern’s Helping Healing After Delivery Clinic visit www.nmh.org
or call 312-926-0779.