USF Health pioneers postpartum care with new Tampa Bay clinic

Pregnancy and childbirth are among the most emotional and wonderful experiences in a woman’s life. But for some, childbirth also brings medical complications that linger into a new mother’s most vulnerable time – the postpartum period after birth.

For many women, childbirth means a physician’s follow-up visit within a few weeks of delivery, and that may be sufficient. But for some women, after-birth care can create difficult navigational paths when there are complications from severe vaginal tears, and they don’t know which medical resource is best for them to turn to for help.

In collaboration with its partner Tampa General Hospital, USF Health recently opened the Pregnancy and Postpartum Clinic to provide necessary care during pregnancy and for at least a year after childbirth. Clinic locations are at the USF Health South Tampa Center for Advanced Health, at Tampa General Hospital; and at TGH Brandon Healthplex, at 10740 Palm River Road. The clinic is a first for USF and a rarity in the southeastern United States.

“They are becoming more common in the United States. But there are fewer than 10 across the country,” says Dr. Katie Propst, an assistant professor of urogynecology at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and the head of the clinic. “So, this is really a new thing in this area of the country to offer women.”

Propst is board-certified in obstetrics, gynecology, female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. She also played a role in launching a similar clinic in Ohio at the Cleveland Clinic.

“When I joined (Cleveland Clinic) the concept and groundwork was raised but they needed someone to own it,” she says. “So, I did that.”

Dr. Katie PropstShe took up duties at USF Health in January 2022 after interviewing with Dr. Judette Louis, chair of the Morsani College of Department of Medicine Obstetrics & Gynecology, and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.

“I brought the idea for the clinic to Dr. Louis at my job interview,” Propst says.

The new clinic will see patients mainly as referrals, though Propst says patients who call the clinic can be screened by staff to determine if the clinic is the correct option for them.

The focus is on treating women with pelvic disorders who are pregnant or up to a year post-partum. Medical conditions would include bladder or bowel incontinence, severe lacerations from vaginal births and pain during sexual intercourse.

“We want to intervene as soon as possible to avoid these things and let women know there are resources to help them,” Propst says

Often, these are issues that women find difficult to discuss.

“We really haven’t had a good way to take care of them,” Propst says. 

Women can struggle sorting out what’s normal and what isn’t, she adds. However, detecting and treating these medical conditions are crucial to a full recovery following childbirth, Propst says. And for women ready to have another child, the clinic is a resource in preparing for the new delivery. 

“What is the best way to deliver the baby based on the trauma they experienced with the first baby?” Propst says.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women be evaluated within three weeks of delivery to establish any needed plan of treatment. And women should be followed routinely for at least a year, according to the medical organization.

The practice of offering a holistic approach to healthcare for post-partum women is an evolving trend and USF Health is pioneering this field. USF’s Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery team, also known as urogynecology, is board-certified and ready to provide the care and treatments needed at the clinic and related departments.

Both surgical and non-surgical care is available. Non-surgical options include physical therapy, medications and bladder retraining and feedback. Surgical options include many minimally invasive procedures.

“(Physical therapy) is typically our first line of treatment for women who have bowel or bladder control issues,” Propst says.

As the clinic evolves, Propst says research will help develop post-partum practices. She participated in similar research while at the Cleveland Clinic.

“That’s something I plan to implement here,” she says.

For information, visit USF Health Obstetrics and Gynecology 
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Read more articles by Kathy Steele.

Kathy Steele is a freelance writer who lives in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. She previously covered Tampa neighborhoods for more than 15 years as a reporter for The Tampa Tribune. She grew up in Georgia but headed north to earn a BA degree from Adelphi University in Garden City, NY. She backpacked through Europe before attending the University of Iowa's Creative Writers' Workshop for two years. She has a journalism degree from Georgia College. She likes writing, history, and movies.