We always talk about the important of a "village" in raising a child, and in truth, it takes a village to protect and raise new parents as well.
Many cultures have traditions of surrounding new parents with support in the early postpartum recovery period. In China, for example, the “sitting the month” period entails the woman staying indoors with baby to focus on bonding and nursing while others cook for her and tend to her needs. Even though multigenerational homes are no longer always the norm, this continues to be a mainstream practice. In India, a confinement period around 40 days is sometimes still practiced where the new mama is fed, nurtured and supported while she focuses on healing and tending to the baby.
I love working with my pregnant clients on creating their postpartum recovery plans, and the village concept is such an important part of this. Interestingly, many of you are now experiencing this home confinement period because of Covid, but you may or may not be getting the loving support that you may need during this vital healing time.
Who is in your village that can tend to you and nurture you? If that’s sparse because it may not yet feel safe to bring many people in your home during this virus, then how can you build your village?
Postpartum doulas, lactation consultants, physical therapists and mental health therapists specializing in postpartum recovery can often do virtual visits if in-person visits do not feel comfortable yet.
Perhaps meal delivery services, neighborhood meal trains, friends to text about your nursing challenges, online support groups, etc can also be part of your modern village as well.
Or maybe you feel safe with the idea of “podding up” with one family or friend group so you can actually have people come and tend to you in person.
I'm particularly a huge fan of doulas, as they can be a vital part of new parents' villages.
Doulas can be a tremendous asset with perinatal mental health as they are hands on with mom, often seeing her in her home environment for visits that last longer than a typical postpartum check up visit. Parents may feel more likely to open up to their doula about how they are really doing, and their doula is in a unique position to more thoroughly assess for any issues or needs (i.e. difficulty with nursing, sleeping, etc.) As a result, doulas are not only tremendously supportive and able to assist parents in getting the mental health (and other) help they need, they may be one of the few providers continually checking on the parents during this critical period.
Doulas can also be helpful with prevention of potential traumatic birth experiences as an advocate for parents. By enabling parents to feel empowered to voice their birth preferences, parents can have an added advocate in the delivery room.
Even by doing virtual visits, doulas can be a tremendous frontline asset for assessing mental health.
Remember, 1 out of 5 women and 1 out of 10 fathers and partners are at risk for developing a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder such as depression or anxiety during their pregnancy or after having a baby. These mood disorders impact BIPOC women even more significantly, with approximately 1 out of 3 Black and Latina Women impacted, for example. Luckily these disorders are temporary and treatable if you get help. But only about 15% of women end up getting treatment, however, and BIPOC women are screened and treated for their symptoms even less frequently than their white counterparts. Doulas trained in perinatal mental health can be a helpful part of the village in assessing for any mood changes and symptoms, and referring to mental health referrals.
Please see this article on Shape.com that I contributed to about doulas if you are considering hiring one. There are many great resources listed.
We all deserve a village made up of quality, healthy individuals who love and support us. This is especially vital when you’re a new parent, and particularly right now if you're more isolated during Covid. If you don’t yet have that yet, it’s ok, let’s help you build your support. 💜