Coming home from the hospital or birth center is a milestone. Coming home can be exciting, scary and make you wonder how one little tiny bundle of baby can go through so many clothes. For some families, coming home is a time of separation and sadness as their baby may be spending time in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or the Special Care nursery. After a vaginal birth, learning to care for your perineum, understanding typical healing, feeding and caring for your newborn as well as feeding and caring for yourself is a part of coming home. After a cesarean birth, caring for your incision, observing for signs of infection and caring for your abdominal muscles as well as feeding and caring for your newborn and yourself are all tasks a new mother will need to educate herself on. For some families, guests begin arriving as soon as the family pulls in the driveway. Guests may want to snuggle with the new baby, talk to mom or may even expect to be entertained. Coming home is the first step of many in navigating life with a new baby.
Our Postpartum Doulas are prepared to help families navigate the early hours, days and weeks of life with a new baby. We offer families support throughout the first year of life. Our Postpartum Doulas will help you understand typical postpartum recovery, provide hands-on education and coaching on newborn care, provide sleep guidance, prepare meals, run errands, talk or help mom get to a needed hair appointment or yoga class. Our Overnight Postpartum Doulas help with hands-on care of the baby while the family rests. Feeding preferences during the night are discussed with parents and the doula supports a parent’s needs and choices. Our goal is to help you have a positive postpartum experience.
The Postpartum Time
In recent years, the term postpartum has been associated with postpartum depression. Postpartum refers to the time after giving birth while Postpartum Depression is a specific mental health condition that some women experience after giving birth. During the early days postpartum, your body will work on healing and repairing. Your doula will review typical physical recovery and symptoms that may require medical attention. In addition, you may find that Belly Binding will aid in helping your abdominal muscles, posture and overall self-image. The postpartum period lasts for the first year after birth as you work to create a new normal for yourself.
Emotionally, the period after birth can be a mixture of feelings. Immediately after giving birth, many mothers feel elated as high levels of oxytocin are present. The third day after birth is a time of immense changes as hormone levels fall, prolactin levels rise as the milk comes in and often a family is coming home and expected to manage life with a new baby. Life with a newborn is unpredictable and uncertain as newborns eat, sleep and poop as biology dictates and not by a schedule; this level of unpredictability can be unsettling. Sleeping and eating which used to feel like routine activities are now squeezed in between feeding the baby, changing the baby and putting the baby down for a few precious moments. The lack of sleep can be a risk factor for postpartum mood disorders and may exacerbate risk for mothers with previous mental health challenges. Breastfeeding is also sometimes challenging and can lead to distress and depression when problems seem unsolvable. We know how important a positive start is for parents and infants. All our doulas have advanced training in breastfeeding to help parents wishing to breastfeed. Our team includes Certified Lactation Consultants, Placenta Encapsulators, Licensed Professional Counselors and Certified Postpartum Doulas who are all available and ready to help new families.
Postpartum Mood Disorders are experienced by 1 in 5 women. The most well-known disorder is Postpartum Depression. Other Postpartum Mood Disorders include: Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Postpartum Psychosis. There is no exact known cause as to why some women experience Postpartum Mood Disorders. Research shows that women with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder are at increased risk for Postpartum Psychosis. It is known that disrupted sleep, a negative birth experience, feeding challenges, an unsupportive partner and limited social support can contribute to the development of a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Some women feel ‘off’ or not like themselves within a few hours after giving birth while others will not experience emotional problems until later. Either partner can experience Postpartum Mood Disorders as the transition to becoming a parent changes our perception of self, our sense of who we are and may create added financial and social stressors. The good news is that Postpartum Mood Disorders respond well to treatment. Treatment may include psychotherapy, medication or a combination. Our therapists are Licensed Professional Counselors who have completed additional training in Postpartum Mood Disorders and specialize in helping families during this vulnerable time.
In addition to the above Postpartum Mood Disorders, some families may experience a traumatic birth experience. A Traumatic Birth may be feeling unheard during the birthing process, unwanted interventions or a birth that posed a risk to the mother or baby. Experiencing a Traumatic Birth can result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One of the most effective treatments for PTSD is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Jamie Bodily is one of our Licensed Professional Counselors and is an EMDR Therapist.
A Time of Transition
Even when things go smoothly, having a baby is a huge transition. It impacts how we feel about ourselves, how we view our role in the family, our feelings about work and our body image. It is a life-changing experience. The Gottmann Institute found that 69% of couples experience some level of dissatisfaction with their relationship in the year after giving birth.
While that can sound depressing, there are lots of things you can do to be proactive in creating a positive postpartum experience. By knowing your personal risk factors, identifying and/or creating a strong support network and doing some practical preparation, you can reduce your risk of having a difficult postpartum time. When you hire St. Louis Doulas for Postpartum Doula support, we offer a prenatal visit to discuss these topics and help your family prepare for the postpartum time.
If you feel that you are at increased risk due to a previous mental health diagnosis or other risk factors, one of our counselors would be happy to help you create a comprehensive Postpartum Plan. By having a plan, you and your partner will understand the signs and symptoms that could indicate a problem, know what your options are and have resources available to contact for help and support. In addition, our counselors will assist you by providing practical tips, strategies and tools to help you simplify and prepare for life with a new baby.
Hiring a Doula
Hiring a doula is an investment in your family’s health and well-being. A much needed nap can help a mother to feel better and be better for her family. Help with breastfeeding can reduce anxiety around whether it’s working, whether baby is getting enough and how to maintain a healthy supply when returning to work. Having hands-on help is invaluable when trying to figure out how to swaddle a baby, how to give that first bath and what to do when baby cries and cries. For families with a baby in the NICU, a Postpartum Doula can help with taking milk to the hospital, encouraging sleep, food and regular pumping and a shoulder to cry on. Overnight help can provide a reprieve, a chance to feel like one’s self and can reduce the risk of Postpartum Mood Disorders.
In most other first world countries, families receive longer parental leave, have regular support from home visiting nurses and have rituals and traditions that honor and embody the postpartum period. The United States has paid parental leave that ranges from none to 1 year; some women return to work within a week or two of giving birth due to financial necessity or fear of losing their job. Postpartum Mood Disorders are higher in the United States than in other developed countries. The lack of guaranteed leave to bond with your baby, create healthy breastfeeding habits and a healthy milk supply and lack of in-home help and support certainly contributes to much distress for families. Planning for and hiring postpartum help just makes good sense.
Each of our Postpartum packages can be customized to meet your family’s needs. Whether you need doula support for a day, a night, a few weeks or several months, we want to create a package that meets your needs. St. Louis Doulas offers a free consultation with one of our doulas to review your needs, your budget and help you put together a package that is just right for you.
Postpartum Doula care can be affordable and manageable. If you are expecting, we can set up a doula registry for your baby shower where friends and family can donate towards your doula package. Some families utilize their Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to help cover the costs of Postpartum Doula care and we would be happy to discuss this option and provide the appropriate documentation. If you hire early, we are happy to create a monthly payment plan to help make budgeting easier. During your consultation, your doula will review the available options.