Many of today’s new parents find themselves without the village of support that they have historically relied on when bringing home a new baby. Some modern moms are turning to postpartum doulas to help them adjust to life with a newborn.
Corey Engmann never considered hiring a postpartum doula until she learned she was expecting twins. Feeling overwhelmed and worried about how she would handle twin babies, along with the pressing needs of her 2-year-old, she turned to Teresa Marshall, a certified birth and postpartum doula, to help her after her twins arrived.
For four months after the birth of the twins, Marshall spent five nights a week at Engmann’s home providing support, encouragement and help. Her assistance enabled Engmann to get the sleep she needed to recover from a physically demanding pregnancy.
“I can easily say that hiring Teresa was the best thing I have ever done for myself and our family,” Engmann says. “During the day I could be present, loving and enjoying all three of my children. It wasn’t the endless cycle of fatigue and frustration as it sometimes was during the first few months with my first child.”
What is a postpartum doula?
The first six weeks after a newborn arrives can be a mixture of happiness and anxiety as the family settles into a new routine. Many of today’s new mothers lack the support network that generations of mothers have relied on in the past. Close family and friends are busy with their own responsibilities, and partners often must return to work within days. A postpartum doula can provide valuable experience and support.
“A lot of women are waiting to have children until they are much older. Their parents are older or live in other parts of the country,” says Marshall, who in addition to her work as a birth and postpartum doula, is a facilitator for a pregnancy and postpartum depression and anxiety support group. “With [the risk of] postpartum depression, it’s so important for women not to be isolated.”
The support of a postpartum doula can be especially helpful to mothers who:
• have a history of depression or postpartum depression;
• don’t have close friends and family nearby to help;
• are expecting multiples;
• or have other little ones demanding attention.
“I am convinced that Teresa saved my life. As most moms have felt at one time or another, I was often wondering and questioning if what I was doing was the right thing for my children — and with twins, the responsibility is so unbelievably overwhelming,” Engmann says.
Mothering the mother.
A mom who spends hours alone with her baby can easily spiral into emotional and physical exhaustion, which can put her at greater risk for postpartum anxiety or depression. During this challenging transition period (often called the fourth trimester), a postpartum doula can provide calm reassurance and support to a new mama and her family.
“When moms feel supported at home, and they are getting what they need, the rates of postpartum depression are reduced,” says Kate Kripke, LCSW, an expert in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and contributing writer for PostPartumProgress.com. “There is a lot to be said about the role the postpartum doula plays in simply mothering the mother after she gives birth that can be incredibly preventative for lots of women.”
In addition to helping to care for the baby, postpartum doulas often help with light housework, errands, cooking, crowd control and caring for siblings. Many are also trained to recognize the signs of postpartum depression and provide resources to the moms they support.
PLAYGROUND asked Michelle Isla of Sacred Birth Midwifery, to give us her recommendations for the best postpartum doulas in the area.
1. Mother NaturAle
3. Erin Greene-Rettig
4. A Mother’s Touch Postpartum Doula Agency
5. beBelieve Birth and Doula Services
8. Kathy Bradley