More than Baby Blues...
Doulas help families navigate Postpartum Distress
Like any huge transition in life, the postpartum time is not all rainbows. Any mom or dad can benefit from having extra help in the weeks and months following the birth of a baby but some parents find they need a special kind of support as they struggle to get their feet on the ground.
When postpartum depression or anxiety makes its way into your home, you may be confused, overwhelmed, and not know who to turn to. Parents need to know that they are not alone in their struggle: research suggests 1 in 5 moms and 1 in 10 dads experience some type of postpartum mood disorder. They also need to know that with the right support they will be well. A little bit of postpartum support often goes a long way towards healing.
More than just Sadness
While postpartum depression remains the most common, catch-all name for anytime a mother doesn’t feel emotionally well in the postpartum period, the term Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, (PMADs), also includes depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bi-polar, and psychosis beginning in pregnancy, birth or postpartum. Each of these disorders have distinct symptoms but it is not uncommon for a mother to move across multiple disorders, for example feeling both PTSD and anxiety, or having OCD thoughts and depression.
There are many factors that contribute to a parent’s experience of postpartum distress. Having a baby is an enormous life change. From economic stress, to birth trauma, to mental health history, to the fact that parents of babies often get perilously little sleep, the causes are often a mixed bag and unique to each parent.
The way PMADs manifest will be individual for each person and a mother is often her own best guide for knowing if something is not right. Even if it doesn’t fit the image of what postpartum depression looks like in your head it never feels good to be uncomfortable in your own skin. The Edinburgh Scale for Postnatal Depression is a self-diagnostic tool that mothers and families can use if they feel that they may not be feeling themselves. Use the scale as a tool for breaching conversations with your partner or care-provider, then together you can make a plan for feeling better.
How Postpartum Doulas Help
Each parent is unique in what will help them on their path to healing. High Country Doulas has a team of postpartum doulas trained by Postpartum Support International to recognize symptoms, aid in healing, and encourage a wide variety of supportive therapies.
Basic self-care can become really hard after having a baby, especially if a mom is struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression. A postpartum doula can help parents take care of their basic needs: sleep, food, and a shower. Whether it means caring for baby, providing a listening ear, helping to develop a postpartum strategy, creating a plan for handling household systems (meal prep, laundry, household tasks), or providing tips and strategies to improve parenting skills. - whatever tasks need to be balanced in the home to make self-care possible - a doula can help. For some moms, this means a much-needed nap. For other moms, this means the ability to go to a yoga class or appointment without an infant. Doulas support your most needed form of self-care.
A doula plays a unique role in supporting you, to help you navigate this confusing time in the way that feels nourishing and safe to you. Parents already have enough judgemental opinions thrown their way. Our doulas have special training to understand PMADs, family needs, infant feeding choices and more, and always keep in mind the uniqueness of each mother.
Connecting with Resources
A doula assists parents connect with in-person and online resources to help them navigate postpartum distress. Postpartum Doulas are aware of local support groups, counselors with PMADs training, new parent groups, and online emergency resources. They can help you process how to talk with your doctor or midwife about how you are feeling. We can also help parents strategize how to build a team of support in their life, such as who can help them with rides, childcare, social support, meals, or sleep.
Doulas Help Partners
The postpartum time period can be exhausting, even more so if postpartum depression is present. If a mom is struggling, their partners may feel they have to do everything: work, keep the house running, help take care of the baby so that mom can rest, care for other children if they have them. By the end of all that, there is little time left over for connection or for a partner’s own self-care. Dads and Partners need rest, too! Doulas support the whole family by managing some of the physical or emotional load of new parenthood. When everyone can rest, eat, and feel connected to each other, great healing can happen.
Someone Who Understands
Parents often find that just having trusted, knowledgeable support nearby helps them. As a mother that experienced postpartum anxiety and depression, my postpartum doula was a “safe person” that “got it”, and just having her in my space helped bolster my mood. I felt like I could share my emotions and simultaneously that it was okay to ask for help with household chores so that I could make self-care a priority.
For all moms struggling with postpartum distress, we want you to get the support and help you need. You are not alone, you are not to blame, and you will be well. We are here to help you navigate this transition to motherhood.
Lis Mitchell, PSI NC Mountain Region Coordinator