UC Davis undergraduate, 4th year
Major: Environmental Science and Management
Nora, sweet and silly Memphis, and me
Since the beginning of this program, Becca has been quietly honing her plan on what specific investigations her historically stress and reproductive physiology lab would center on. Today, she finally let us all in on that plan. The study of Green Care, or using natural experiences for therapeutic benefits, has recently been gaining momentum in the scientific community. Studies published thus far have been tailored mainly towards investigating the effects of Green Care on individuals with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and autism. While any of these groups would (and most likely will) benefit highly from our program, Becca had something more unique in mind - something more personal, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
After going on a walk with the minis Olivia and Randy, mama and baby, as well as Mary and Memphis, another parent-child unit, Becca shared with us the reason we have such a unique set of animals in terms of familial relationships; we have two sets of said mama-son minis, and the 3 piglets are all siblings. The way they interact with one another from this innate biological, familial place is so unique and special, and relatable to humans and non-human animals alike. Becca then revealed that she wanted a substantial part of our research program to target preventative care for postpartum parents, particularly those who may be suffering from postpartum depression. There is an extreme lack of resources in our country (and beyond) for any individual who just gave birth, and even those who don’t experience depression often experience challenges relating to a significant change in their life and lifestyle, including mental, hormonal, and other physiological changes that often go undiscussed. Becca, a mother herself who had suffered from postpartum depression, has been a strong advocate for mothers-in-science during her career (see some of her work linked below). Now, she plans to use her unique training in animal behavior, stress and reproductive physiology, coupled with her authentic experience as a mother herself, to further investigate how Green Care could be used to support parents experiencing such challenges.
I have been personally inspired to do my own research regarding women or women-identifying folks in the man-made medical world, specifically the history of misdiagnosis and “hysteria” by physicians. Unwell Women by Elinor Cleghorn is one of my favorite books, dictating the history of such failures in women's medical cases. In the present-day, many women are not heard by their doctors, as their concerns are historically not taken as seriously. They are more likely than men to have their pain dismissed, and are more often written off as psychiatric cases than given further medical analyses, allowing many chronic diseases or ailments to go undiagnosed (see one of many articles on health inequality linked below). Women of color suffer the most, with Black maternal death wreaking havoc in the U.S. (there are a whole host of articles, but see general statistics linked below). Birthing centers, which are found for many to be better options than hospitals, given the frequent over-medicalization of births, are often not covered by insurance or backed by legislation to give all women, but specifically women of color, the best chance of a healthy life after birth. I am personally interested in going to law school to study health policy and law, focusing on such reproductive policy and womens’ protections in the medical world. Given our now specified focus of postpartum individuals, I feel a very personal connection to this cause.
I believe the uniqueness of each individual makes studying such a phenomenon difficult, and therefore a lack of resources exist due to its complex nature. Plus, research on womens’ bodies has been historically lacking. Becca specifically emphasized how few resources there are for those who have just had children, let alone those suffering with postpartum depression, highlighting how this truly is a women’s/reproductive rights issue. Not only am I passionate about the legal work and advocacy I hope to do in my future, but I am ecstatic to be making an impact in the present. So, while this direction means a lot to Becca from personal experience, it means a lot to me in terms of curiosity and calling. I am excited to see what corners this new direction will take us, and what opportunities it will open up for myself in the future.
Racial and Ethnic Pregnancy-Related Death Disparities
Green Care Blog
Here you can find blog posts from each Green Care Lab intern. We'll be talking about our research process, the benefits of Green Care therapy, and sharing pictures of our work. Follow along with us!