Pregnancy and childbirth is a time of huge physical and emotional change, an amazing journey which can never the less be quite challenging. Most women look after themselves really well during their pregnancies, eat healthily, practice yoga or exercise regularly, have massage/shiatsu/acupuncture sessions to help their bodies adjust to the pregnancy … but in general this does not continue into the postnatal period.
Labour is a very intense and powerful process and much rest and support is needed to heal the body. Looking after yourself/your friend/your partner is very important in the early postnatal months as women tend to concentrate on caring for their babies and forget about themselves!
Regular massage/shiatsu/acupuncture treatments will help the body to re-balance emotionally and physically and release tension from the upper body in particular which is overworked from carrying and holding a baby. The hormone that softens muscles & ligaments during pregnancy can be present for up to 3 months after birth making joints vulnerable to strain. Tension builds up in the lower back as the abdominal muscles are stretched and soft after birth. The back muscles do all the work of holding the body upright until the abdomen is strengthened again by careful exercise.
In many cultures women are cared for and guided through their journey to motherhood by the more experienced women of their community. They are looked after and are able to rest and concentrate on breastfeeding and bonding with their babies as their housework is done and older children are cared for by the extended family, in these cultures postnatal depression is virtually unknown. Sadly most of us do not live in close communities or have extended families nearby to help us with our newborn babies. We are often isolated in our homes with family members who might be able to visit occasionally but can’t pop in every day to see how we are coping and our partners often only have two weeks leave.
This is where the postnatal doula can really help to make a difference. Just as birth doula’s support women through pregnancy and birth, postnatal doula’s support new mums and their families. In a way they are helping to fill the gap of our missing communities and extended families. A postnatal doula will help you to get breastfeeding off to a good start, look after your baby so you can rest/sleep/have an undisturbed bath, make sure you have eaten well, will listen to your birth story and give you information about baby related issues so you can make informed decisions and help to build your confidence as a new mother.
Where possible organize some help with your family/friends/doula and maybe arrange some postnatal massage, find local breastfeeding support groups, book extra hours with your cleaner if you are lucky enough to have one… and then you can enjoy that special time with your baby and not feel exhausted or overwhelmed !
By Sue Boughton- Maternity massage specialist and birth & postnatal Doula [Doula UK] at Shine Holistic