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Preventing Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Many expectant mothers worry about having postpartum depression which often reveals itself as intense anxiety. If a pregnant woman has a family member who has experienced it or if a woman has experienced depression in her own life, she may have some real concerns. While all postpartum depression/anxiety may not be able to be completely avoided there are definitely some things one can do to lessen the chances of having it or lessen the degree of the intensity of it.

What are some causes Postpartum Depression and Anxiety?

  • Hormonal changes
  • Lack of sleep
  • History of depression in the mom/immediate family
  • Lack of emotional support
  • anxiety about caring for her newborn
  • distance – physical and/or emotional from new mom’s own mother/family
  • isolation
  • Unmet physical needs
  • challenge of breastfeeding
  • “over-doing it”- lack of rest
  • Continual need food, laundry, general family care

A Brief History of Postpartum depression

Culturally, child-bearing women through the ages have been naturally supported by other women in their family, neighborhood, tribe.
One anthropologist, Dana Raphael, after having her first baby said:

“When I couldn’t breastfeed him, I was devastated. So what I did was go to the library and research what women in other cultures did to keep their babies alive. I studied this pattern in 178 cultures, and found that in every case, in every culture, there was a pattern of having some specifically named person come to be with the mother after childbirth. That person was usually mother’s mother. One day a very dear elderly Greek woman was listening to a conversation between myself and her daughter-in-law. “Oh yes,” she interjected. “That’s a doula. That’s the woman who comes across the street when there is a new baby, to help the mother with the other children.” With that, the role of the doula was invented. The doula is the person who supports the mother so that she can breastfeed.”

Cultures that have female support during the child-bearing years do not have words for “postpartum depression” or “postpartum anxiety”. These cultures currently and historically have few if any nursing problems. In many cultures, women are and have been supported by other women after having a baby. These supportive women taught the new mom about her baby, and provided physical support for her through providing her with nurturing foods, baths and the care of her older children.

Today, in our American culture, moms are sent home from the hospital with little or no female support. If a postpartum mother doesn’t have her own mother coming to help her, her friends and neighbors are often either working or caring for their own families. Thus the need for a professional postpartum doula has arisen.

The Advantages of hiring a Postpartum Doula*

She is experienced in:

  • postpartum – emotional and physical needs of the new mom.
  • newborns – care and common issues, what’s normal
  • breastfeeding support and issues

She will care for you and your family’s physical needs.

  • Meal preparation for the whole family
  • Laundry
  • Light housework
  • Care of siblings – helping adjustment (and to ensure mom gets a nap!)
  • Doing errands or getting kids off to school
  • Overnight care

She is a “neutral nurturer” meaning she doesn’t “know” you and will support you without judgement.

  • The support of a family member can sometimes be challenging as postpartum women are often sensitive to criticism and unwanted advice. (If your mother or mother-in-law lean towards being critical of you, their support maybe best utilized after the first couple of weeks.)
  • A doula doesn’t act as the “expert” but rather as a “guide”, helping the new mother build her confidence in her own ability to mother her baby.
  • The doula supports the decisions of the experienced 2nd or 3rd time mother. An experienced mom just needs someone to “take over” for a couple of weeks so she can heal from delivery, rest and not worry about her family’s needs.

Having postpartum support in the form of a doula can go a long way in getting the postpartum mom and her family off to a good start and preventing feelings of loneliness, uncertainty and inadequacy.

Do you need professional Postpartum Support? How much time do you need?

  • If you have supportive women in your life who are offering to help, let them. You don’t need two terrific, supportive women at the same time. Spread out your help!
  • If you have some female support, supplement with a professional doula during the first two weeks if you will be alone on certain days.
  • Most women need a minimum of two weeks postpartum to step back from their life to heal, process their birth, and learn about their new baby.
  • Only hire someone you are comfortable with so meet the person in advance if hiring a doula or speak to her on the phone in advance, if possible.
  • If you are working with MothersCare Doula Services, we have a 4 hour minimum per day, and no day minimum to schedule. Our services are very flexible and you can add on as you see how things are going. Overnight services are an 8 hr. minimum.
  • Give yourself permission to rest after your baby arrives. Plan for it! Having that time will go a long way towards avoiding postpartum depression and anxiety. If you find yourself still struggling, outside medical support is available and should be utilized. Most of these feelings are TEMPORARY.

*Duties of MothersCare Doula Services Postpartum Doulas. Contact us for more detailed information. Our number is (203) 375-5719 or find out more at or email us at [email protected]

About Susan Shepard

I am the owner/partner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT. I am a Postpartum doula and my business partner, Sheila Marley is a Labor doula. MothersCare places both Labor and Postpartum doulas with CT Families. I am the mom of five beautiful children, one set of twins. The best quote for me as a young mother and the catalyst for MothersCare is “It’s not weakness to know you need help, it’s wisdom.”


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