Benefits of a Postpartum Doula
Everyone deserves postpartum support and care after birth. Let’s kasa/talk about why!
"Rarely, if ever, are any of us healed in isolation. Healing is an act of communion.” — bell hooks, “All About Love”
What is postpartum?
Postnatal. Puerperium. Postpartum. The Fourth Trimester. There are many names for postpartum or the time after birth when your body begins to heal from pregnancy, childbirth, and the transition into motherhood/parenthood begins or expands (if you have older children). The postpartum period is often thought of as only the first six weeks or 40 days after birth, when in fact even after the body physiologically returns to its pre-pregnancy state, this time is only the beginning of a series of bodily, emotional, and social changes.
In the fourth trimester, healing, rest, and nourishment should be urgently prioritized. Your baby is learning to be nourished, adjusting to life outside of your womb, and your body does as it is designed to and heals from the 9 months of changes that took place during your pregnancy. A roller coaster of transformations in the body, family, and your home environment, often looks like (but is not limited to):
emotions due to fluctuating hormones,
infant feeding and care,
and many other emotional, mental, and physical changes
In fact, postpartum remains a critical time for both the mother/parent and their newborn. Yet, as we know life doesn't stop life-ing during the postpartum period, which is why community is key to helping you achieve a slow and healing postpartum. However it can feel almost impossible in the ultra busy world in which we live, to take the time you need to truly let your body rest and heal.
Global Postpartum Traditions
Several cultures around the world believe that proper postpartum care and recovery is so essential that it can lead to more optimal and improved health and well-being (Tully et al, 2017) and it can protect the future health of that person. Postpartum traditions around the world value and center the needs of the new mother/parent in the several ways, in what has been called mother-care protocols (Ou, 2016, Grigoriadis et al, 2009).These include:
Nourishment with warming and healing foods
Healing practices and rituals
Support in the home, with various household tasks – cleaning, cooking and caring for other family members
Support with infant care and feeding
For cultures throughout West Africa, like the Akan in Ghana, the postpartum period includes physical support in the house, nourishing meals, baths for the mother and baby, emphasizing rest and recovery, and managing visitors, are all rituals of care organized by the mother or mother-in-law (or female relatives in the family). For the Igbo in Nigeria, this period of care is known as Omugwo (Ohaja &Chinemerem, 2021). To have someone that can fully center the needs of the postpartum mother/parent and their baby is a beautiful, intergenerational gift and tradition, however not all families have someone who can or is available to step in and provide this role. Enter postpartum doulas and birthworkers, community care that honors these sacred traditions and contributes to closing care gaps.
What is a postpartum doula and what can they do for you?
Postpartum Care is essential health care, yet in the US it remains as one of the most neglected areas of women's health. For example, attendance to the 6 week postpartum visit with the health provider is low and remains underutilized (Scott & Davis,2022). A postpartum doula is a birthworker who helps to fill the gaps in both our healthcare and community care systems, while supporting the new mother/parent as they navigate the challenges of the postpartum period with education, physical support, and holistic care.
Birthworkers, which includes a wide spectrum of doulas, midwives, and other perinatal professionals are working in service of birth in our communities and remain committed to intentionally reclaiming the traditional ways of centering and caring for the postpartum women and people in our communities, particularly for Black women and other women of color who remain the most vulnerable. At Saa Yare Boah Doula Care, we believe that offering quality and holistic postpartum health, wellness, education, care and support creates an opportunity to improve our collective health, while also creating new traditions of care in our communities.
To give you a better idea of what postpartum doula support and care can look and feel like, we’ve listed some examples and areas of support below (this is not an exhaustive list), but can look like any of the following:
Planning for your postpartum
Planning for all areas of your postpartum in your 2nd or 3rd Trimester
Planning for your postpartum nourishment plan
Planning for your postpartum breast/chestfeeding and infant feeding goals
Support with your baby
Washing baby’s bottles
Support with baby’s laundry or folding baby’s laundry
Care of baby while mother/parent rests
Support for you
Support your bodily autonomy and your body’s innate ability to heal, feed (if that is your goal), and rest, preventing postpartum depletion and/or postpartum mood and anxiety disorders
Offer daytime or nighttime support
Providing you with community referrals to perinatal providers that can support your postpartum healing and your breast/chestfeeding goals
Prepare you a warm cup of tea
Prepare a nourishing meal
Basic breast/chestfeeding support
Caring for baby while you nap, shower, or just get horizontal
Being a listening ear, calming voice, consistent presence, and your co-strategist on nourishing your 4th trimester
Help you process your birth
Support your healthy transition into motherhood/parenthood
Support for your partner and the rest of the family
Support your partner in their transition and care of you and your little one(s)
Sibling Care for the older children in the family
Support your family’s healthy transition into your new roles
There are so many ways a postpartum doula can support you and your family during this sacred and crucial time of transition and we encourage you to explore this while you plan for your postpartum, interview doulas, and build your perinatal care team.
It is also important to clarify, what a Postpartum doula is not:
A nanny, aside from caring for your little one(s) while you shower or nap. Postpartum doulas are not alone with the baby in the home (unless discussed and agreed upon as part of doula duties).
A doula cannot give medical advice, cannot replace your midwife or other health providers.
No one should ever do postpartum alone. Postpartum is a time when you, your needs, and your baby’s needs should be listened to, protected and held in community. Every family deserves the support they desire as they transition into parenthood (whether it's their first, third, or fifth time) and journey through the postpartum. Just as important, every family deserves the postpartum doula that is right for them.
Postpartum is one of the most important and sacred times of transition in a woman and postpartum person’s mental, emotional, and physical health experience.
Are you looking for a postpartum doula?
Postpartum doula care is truly my heart niche space. I love being able to care for you and support you and your family’s transition in the comfort of your home.
Here are a few additional resources to help you prepare for your postpartum:
For a list of my recommended postpartum books, visit my Bookshop here.
Check out our Resources page for more goodies!
* Postpartum is a time of healing and many bodily, emotional, and family transitions/changes. It is not well supported, but urgently needs to be for every birthing and postpartum person. * Postpartum doulas are birthworkers that are reclaiming traditional ways to holistically support your postpartum.
* Everyone deserves the postpartum care they desire, let’s connect to see if I could be the right postpartum doula for you.
WHO recommendations on maternal and newborn care for a positive postnatal experience. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2022.; The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Optimizing postpartum care. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 736. Obstet Gynecol. 2018;131:e140–e150.Reaffirmed 2021.
Tully, Kristin P. et al. “The fourth trimester: a critical transition period with unmet maternal health needs.” American journal of obstetrics and gynecology 217 1 (2017): 37-41.
Ou, H. (2016). The First Forty Days The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother.
Abrams.;Grigoriadis, Sophie et al. “Traditional Postpartum Practices and Rituals: Clinical Implications.” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 54 (2009): 834 - 840.
Ohaja,Magdalena and Chinemerem Anyim. 2021. Rituals and Embodied Cultural Practices at the Beginning of Life: African Perspectives. Religions 12: 1024. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12111024
Scott, Karen & Davis, Dana‐Ain. (2022). Destigmatizing and Democratizing Postpartum Care: A “Black Woman-Person First” Approach. Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology.