Over 20 years ago when I was practicing that was the question I would get. What is a postpartum doula? Not a lot has changed! Much is written about labor doulas but not a whole lot about postpartum. Which is unfortunate. Even when looking for studies most are pretty dated.
So, what IS a postpartum doula anyway? As a former client of mine said during a newspaper interview...it is like having another mother in the household. But wiser. The day moves fluidly. I have someone to talk with, ask questions, do things I cannot for right now. A guide, a helping hand. Which was funny because that was my business name at the time.
But more than that, a postpartum doula is someone who is trained and has extensively studied the normal of postpartum recovery for the birthing person and baby. Although they do not provide medical advice or clinical care, they can keep a close eye on things and recommend a host of resources if there is a need.
They educate and listen. Provide the birthing person and partner a time to rest and rejuvenate. Provide light housekeeping and a light meal and rock and hold the baby so this can be accomplished. Encourage bonding and even care for siblings.
I believe a time has come to get the word out. To educate, especially medical professionals about what a postpartum doula is and what they can accomplish, especially when new families are going home sooner and sooner. Home birth is a bit different because the midwives do follow up care and exams in the home.
In my workshops I encourage doulas to visit doctor and midwifery offices. To offer a presentation in the offices about the work of postpartum doulas. I am about to send out a mailing to medical offices introducing the concept and letting them know I have a list of many postpartum doulas in NJ and PA, ready and willing to serve.
We know now that isolation after birth is a huge factor in postpartum mood disorders and anxiety. I remember one family in particular. I looked out the door to a beautiful leaf strewn street and not a car or person in sight and thinking...if I were not here this woman, who was napping at the time, would feel so all alone! Families leave the hospital and many times feel they have no resources. Not sure what to do or who to call. They are tired and worried about how to care for this new family member. Are they doing anything that could harm their baby? Typically that answer is "no" but a little reassurance goes a long way!
We need to do better! I am ready. Are you?