I Say Postpartum, You Say Depression…

Stranger: What kind of work do you do?

Me: I’m a Doula 

Stranger: Oh like you help with birth?

Me: Yes and I’m also a postpartum doula.

Stranger: (Said with sadness) I had postpartum….

What this stranger meant was that she suffered from postpartum depression.

The term “postpartum” alone has come to mean “postpartum depression” for many people but depression is only one aspect of the postpartum world.

Anyone who has had a baby has, “had postpartum.”

The term postpartum simply refers to the period of time directly following the birth of a baby and continuing for approximately 6 weeks post birth. Many consider the postpartum period to include the entire first year following the birth.

Other associations with the word postpartum include:

According to WHO (The World Health Organization) the postpartum period is the most crucial time for birthing people. Unfortunately, it is also the most overlooked or undervalued time, considering that most birth associated deaths happen for mothers and infants during this time. This delicate recovery period when the birthing person’s body, hormone levels and the size of their uterus are returning to their pre-pregnancy state is exhausting and restless for most.

Most put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves to bounce back after birth and to “just figure things out on their own,” with the help of the internet, of course…

Many find themselves comparing how they feel on the inside to how others look on the outside both in person and in photographs. Not feeling like they “measure up,” contributes to the negative emotions that may accompany the postpartum period.

So how can we help someone who just had a baby?

What do they need?

Most new parents are not able to articulate their postpartum need for help, for a number of reasons…

  • They want to do it themselves
  • They want people to think they can do it without help
  • They think they should be able to do it all on their own
  • They aren’t sure what kind of help they need
  • They don’t like to ask for help
  • They don’t want help from the people who want to help them

The gentle art of Postpartum & Infant doula Care is difficult to describe. Most birth doulas aren’t even able to correctly describe what a postpartum doula does.

In an online group of primarily birth doulas, I asked the question, what does a postpartum doula do? The overwhelming responses included, they help with breastfeeding and laundry, and I don’t exactly know…

So, what does a postpartum doula do?

The ProDoula postpartum doula brings their experience, companionship and emotional support to parents and their newborns while providing physical, educational and non-judgmental support. Their primary focus is on the person’s recovery from birth and the baby’s adjustment to life on the outside. The doula is well versed in breast and bottle feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, sleep guidance, infant soothing and general coping skills. Additionally, they assist with meal preparation, light housework and the general needs of the family during the postpartum period and beyond.

Recently, at a doula training, a student named Brielle, told me that she probably wouldn’t be overly invested in postpartum care, because she loved the birth side of things so much. I was confident that she had no idea how powerful and rewarding postpartum doula care was for both the mother AND the doula.

Brielle later shared in an online doula group with over 5,000 members how grateful she was to have walked through the postpartum doula door.

After her first shift as a postpartum doula, this is what she had to say…

“Well let me just say–postpartum work IS amazing. I did my first shift yesterday (11hrs with a single, first-time mom who was also my birth client) and it was everything Mary & Randy had said it would be, and then some. It was so fantastic to see, hour by hour, just how much I was helping her to not only get through her daily routine, but also make improvements to her daily routine. She gave me free rein to shop at Whole Foods, admitting that her diet wasn’t the best and she’d welcome a change. Over the course of my shift, I made enough all organic, high-protein meals for her (and her mother, who’s staying to help with the night shifts) to last ten days, plus tons of grab-and-go snacks for her while she’s pumping in between feedings. I sanitized every baby bottle/pump part in the house, walked her dog, did 4 loads of laundry, and helped her give the baby her first bath, among all of the normal newborn care stuff. Thank you to everyone in this group who has said how much postpartum work matters–I don’t know if I would have taken the leap had it not been for ProDoula.”

Being trained to attune with your client and to recognize the early signs of postpartum baby blues, postpartum depression and other postpartum mood disorders often makes you, the postpartum doula, the one person that a client feels safe confiding in when things feel “off” to them.

I have been on the receiving end of this with clients.

I know the fear, anxiety and pain that a person feels when they suffer with postpartum depression and I know that my role as a postpartum doula has reassured many as they worked toward resolve.

Until you have been the trusted expert in the home of a family with a 2-3 day old infant you just can’t imagine the value that your care can bring. To know that the comfort and confidence of your presence puts parents at ease enough to truly let go of the “what ifs,” and bond with their baby, is a magical feeling.

When I was ready to become a postpartum doula and provide postpartum care, I was worried that I would not have the touch; that babies would cry, and that I would not be able to calm them.

What I found was exactly the opposite. What I was able to do, even more importantly, was stop the baby’s parents from crying!

I was able to bring them to a place of peace and calm and because they were relaxed, their baby was in turn, also relaxed and they felt more successful.

The rewards of this work know no end.

Are you ready to become a doula?

Our postpartum doula certification program will prepare you for this work and our ongoing support will be just a phone call away, every step of the way.

This work is truly amazing and you deserve to do something amazing!