Alison Lewis, left, and Dr. Tamar Boyd, right, speak about women’s health care at Wellspring Integrative Medical Center on Thursday. (Kevin Gullufsen | Juneau Empire)

Alison Lewis, left, and Dr. Tamar Boyd, right, speak about women’s health care at Wellspring Integrative Medical Center on Thursday. (Kevin Gullufsen | Juneau Empire)

Biz Spotlight: Changing the conversation around post-pregnancy care

Now that it’s built a team, Wellspring Integrative Medical Center hopes to start a movement

Struggling to heal emotionally and physically after pregnancy is normal. But it’s not something people talk about readily, said Dr. Tamar “Tam” Boyd, of Wellspring Integrative Medical Center.

Living with symptoms like urinary incontinence, pelvic pain and post-partum depression have been normalized, Boyd said in a Thursday interview. She and her newly-formed team of health care providers want to change that.

“We consider it the ‘badge of childbearing’ that we live with these issues,” Boyd said. “We’re treating the optimal well-being and adjustment as the norm, rather than struggling to adjust. It should be flipped. The struggling to adjust, both physically and psychologically after birth, is the norm, and that’s what should be recognized.”

The center, on Jordan Creek Avenue, aims to support mothers and their families with a one-stop shop for integrative health care. Boyd and her team of three nurses — one of whom is still on the way — believe in treating the whole person, not just addressing symptoms.

Boyd is a licensed counselor. Two more family nurse practitioners and a women’s health practitioner treat patients with a combination allopathic, the disease-centered style of western medicine, and holistic treatments, which often include changes to diet, sleep and lifestyle practices that can help people heal. Patients book hour-long appointments and are welcomed to stay on as Wellspring patients as long as they need, Boyd said.

It’s a one-of-a-kind model, Boyd said. Typically, women receive checkups three and six weeks after giving birth, Boyd said. They’re often deemed healed after that. But the truth is it often takes much longer than six weeks to recover fully after a pregnancy, Boyd said.

That’s where Wellspring came in for patient Alison Lewis. She always prided herself on her health, but after giving birth in February of 2017, Lewis found herself wondering who to turn to for care. Physical and emotional symptoms post-pregnancy gnawed at her, so much so that she said she had a hard time enjoying her new motherhood. She bounced from specialist to specialist, and was often told there was nothing they could do to help her.

After pregnancy, “The mom kind of goes into the background, and that’s something I always kind of knew was going to happen,” Lewis said. “But I was also in a situation where I needed help.”

Lewis saw five different providers before coming to Wellspring. None worked out for her.

“It was almost like an assembly line, but everybody had a different conveyor belt,” she said. “It was just kind of being bobbled around.”

After travelling to Seattle for surgery, Lewis said she started breaking emotionally.

“I was doing my best to bounce back, emotionally, but it never happened. The physical trauma was taken care of, but the psychological trauma just kind of snowballed,” Lewis said.

She’s not alone. About 80 percent of pregnant women experience post-partum depression, Boyd said. Half of women in the United States experience symptoms from pelvic floor disorder after pregnancy, according to the International Urogynecology Journal.

Lewis said she was “finally able to enjoy my new baby, and it shouldn’t have to be like that. All my physical issues, nobody was listening to me. … It just was more of a big issue than it had to be, which is the heartbreaking part. I’m in a good place now, but it’s still heartbreaking to look back on.”

Treating women like Lewis is part of a higher mission Boyd has to change the conversation around women’s health care in the U.S. Part of that means putting women at the center of a health care model that includes men and children.

Wellspring accepts male patients. Family practitioner Brandy Sale, who signed on with Wellspring a year ago, treats women, men and children. She said she’s been disillusioned with the short duration of typical doctor visits.

“It feels like it’s such an obvious thing, like of course our families are important. While Tam and the women’s health nurse practitioners here may focus on women, it’s the whole family. Yeah, women are at the center, but the dad, the husbands, the children, that makes a complete picture. That’s everything,” Sale said.

• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.

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