After their babies’ birth, mothers are left alone to navigate the turbulent waters of new parenthood. The current system is set up to fail our new mothers, and more support is required.
One of our current medical model’s biggest challenges is the lack of care provided to mothers postpartum. Most new mothers are only seen once by their care providers during the first six weeks postpartum, which is not enough.
Redefining postpartum to support new mothers
We live in a world where mothers are suffering silently every day. Each year, more than 600,000 birthing people experience postpartum depression in the United States. Postpartum depression and anxiety have become the most common complications of childbirth.
But postpartum isn’t a mental health diagnosis. It’s a phase of life.
Postpartum does not end at six weeks, three months, or even one year. Once you have birthed a child you are forever postpartum. You are forever transformed and deserving of support.Gabrielle McDade
After the birth, there is a tendency to shift attention away from the mother to the baby. We tend to stop checking in on the mothers and asking about their well-being.
“How’s the baby sleeping?”
“Is the baby eating well?”
This shift in focus is further demonstrated by the fact that your average pregnant person will see their care provider 16 times before the birth and only once postpartum.
We forget that a mother is born with each birth and that mother deserves to be held. These newborn mothers are fresh, tender beings, still digesting the raw intensity of their births, sleep-deprived, and all too often alone in their experience.
Postpartum is a time for physical healing, emotional vulnerability, and transformation. It is a time of resilience and complete overwhelm. It is unlike any other experience, and it deserves more support.
How to best prepare a new mom for postpartum
Our medical system emphasizes the hormonal changes of postpartum and the contributing role of these hormones to mood disorders that we are missing one fundamental fact.
Mothers need more support. So, what do I mean by support? Let’s start with the basics.
Encourage edcuation around PMADs
The more we talk about perinatal mood disorders, the more we can normalize the potential challenges that new mothers may face. As a trained midwife, I was well versed in the staggering rates of postpartum depression, but I had never even heard of postpartum anxiety.
I had no idea that most mothers experience intrusive thoughts.
“If I fall asleep, something horrible will happen to my baby.”
“What if they stop breathing?”
“Am I going crazy?”
How can we address postpartum mood disorders head-on when we aren’t taught what to expect from birth and postpartum?
You can start by listening to the stories of other mothers and ask the hard questions. Knowledge is power.
Suggest a postpartum plan
Through education, we learn that planning for postpartum is paramount.
What is the family’s plan for meals, sleep, and infant feedings?
Who will care for the home while the mother is still recovering from birth?
What is the plan for older siblings and social visits?
Taking the time to create a postpartum plan will help you clarify what you need for both your physical and emotional recovery. There is so much that is completely unpredictable when caring for a baby, and addressing these basic structures will set a family up for long-term success.
As a midwife and a woman with a history of anxiety, I did everything in my power to set myself up for a successful postpartum. But despite my best-laid plans, my training as a midwife, my supportive husband, and my community – I still found myself suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression.
The lessons I learned
My postpartum planning sheltered me from the worst of my mood disorders, but I learned two important lessons from my struggles.
1. Practice accepting help
This step is often the hardest. There can be such an emphasis in our culture on being strong and independent that we have lost sight of the gift of vulnerability. There is great strength in vulnerability.
A friend once told me that I had given them the gift of being able to be of service in accepting their support. By letting down my guard, I created an opportunity for intimacy.
So try this, the next time someone offers you help, and you find yourself about to say no, breath through the discomfort and try saying yes instead. Try to let go of the story that you should have all together.
Let yourself be human, messy, and raw.
2. Think outside the box
Self-care and prioritizing your needs can be one of the biggest challenges of motherhood. Scheduling an appointment and getting out of the house (on time) with or without your baby can be nearly impossible at times.
The good news is that there is a whole world of support online that you can tap into from the comfort of your home. You can now find postpartum coaches, therapists, and mom groups all online. Coaches and therapists can be essential resources for new moms. They are great listeners and can provide you with tools for coping with the stress of motherhood.
Looking for a postpartum support group?
If you’re looking for a postpartum support group, check out the Postpartum Together support groups for new moms. You can save $20 on groups with code HP20 at checkout.
Final thoughts on a new mother’s postpartum
My advice to any expecting moms is to plan for support. Set yourself up with someone who can create a space for you to show up exactly as you are and be held.
Support is not a luxury. It is essential to the physical and emotional well-being of all new mothers.
Support is essential because you matter.
Your mental health matters.
Your postpartum matters.