Support During Postpartum Period
— From a DONA International Birth Doula Topic Sheet
Support During the Postpartum Period
The birth of each baby has a long-lasting impact on the physical and mental health of the mother, baby and family. The way in which the woman, baby, partner and family transition into a new unit have a long-lasting impact on their physical and emotional health.
In traditional societies, women and men grow up around birth, breastfeeding, infants and children. After giving birth, women are surrounded by caring family members who have a great deal of experience and wisdom to offer. This kind of help is rarely available to new parents in many societies today. The doula’s support is intended to fill the gaps left by our postpartum traditions, which usually include only medical procedures, occasional checkups and the purchase of baby-related paraphernalia. The doula’s education, quiet support and guidance are a manifestation of traditional postpartum support that many cultures are missing.
There are many ways in which the doula’s support benefits fathers. Research has proven that mothers and babies have an easier transition with support. However, fathers experience great life transitions of their own at this time and may not be able to be the primary provider of the transitional support their families need. Fathers are redefining their roles; they may also be adjusting to sleep deprivation, financial pressures and other stressors, as well.
The doula’s support is for the father as much as the mother or children. A sympathetic ear, source of encouragement, gentle educator and friend is something from which we could all benefit throughout our lives. The postpartum doula provides all of these during this defining life experience.
The doula can also help the father to learn the art of mothering the mother, increasing chances for success in areas such as breastfeeding and reduction of postpartum depression. Rather than being told to help out, partners and other family members benefit from concrete instruction and role-modeling on how to support a woman during the weeks after birth.
The importance of the father’s involvement and support during the weeks following birth cannot be overstated. During this time he truly becomes a parent, getting to know this tiny, yet complete, person who has entered his family. The doula can ease this introduction, helping the father to discover all he can about his baby, as well as develop his own concept of himself as a parent. In addition, the doula’s support can help parents to adjust their own relationship, moving forward to enhance their previous life together as a couple who are now parents.
The role of the doula is to help the family experience success. She does this with quiet, reassuring support for all family members. By dedicating herself to the family in this way, the doula validates and enhances the parents’ intuitive ability to nurture and encourages them to become confident to develop and implement their own parenting style.