The fourth trimester is an intense time. Even in the best of circumstances, caring for a needy newborn on little sleep isn’t exactly enjoyable, you know? The postpartum period is a bit of a roller coaster for most families, with lots of emotional and mental ups and downs. Many people struggle with their mental health after giving birth—1 in 7 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers experience postpartum depression, for example. But even if you don’t have a clinical mental health issue like a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD), you may still find daily life more difficult at this time. That can take a toll on your overall mental health.
Enter doulas! As postpartum doulas, we take our role in mental health seriously. While we aren’t therapists or counselors, we are resources, listening ears, seeing eyes, and safe people to share with.
Your doula—especially your postpartum doula—can be a strong supporter of your mental health after you’ve given birth. Here’s how.
Doulas help with planning and expectations
You know that saying, “A goal without a plan is just a wish?” Well, it’s very true in terms of the postpartum period. Making a plan for life after the baby arrives can be absolutely game-changing for the whole family—and it’s ideal to do it with the support of an experienced doula.
Set aside some extra time to answer key questions before the baby arrives, like who will be there to help you after the birth, who do you want in your home, how will you feed yourself, and who can support siblings and take care of pets. These may sound like basic things, but all can chip away at your emotional health when you’re in the throes of newborn life. Our postpartum app, My Fourth, has a great postpartum prep section that can help you fill in the blanks
A doula can also educate you about what to expect of your brain, body, and baby after birth. When you have an understanding of what’s normal in the postpartum period, you feel more confident and less anxious.
Doulas listen and hold space
One of the most important ways that doulas support new families is by simply listening. Baby won’t seem to settle, your partner doesn’t get it, and you feel absolutely at the end of your rope? Your doula is there to listen—without judgment or agenda. Think of a doula as an awesome friend who also happens to know tons of stuff about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and babies.
Doulas will give advice if you need it (see below for the types of resources and support they can provide), but they’re also happy just to hang out and hear you vent, affirming just how hard this whole thing is. Sometimes, a simple text from your doula asking you how you’re doing can make all the difference. As doulas, part of our job is to ensure you feel seen and heard.
Doulas provide resources
Because doulas are experts in the perinatal period, they know all the best resources. Online lactation consultants, a list of cool clothing brands for easy access if you’re breastfeeding, and a great chart for newborn wake windows? Yes, yes, and yes! Doulas are also adept at helping you find the resources that specifically fit you and your individual goals and needs as a new parent—no Googling required 😉
If your doula is local to you, they may have a comprehensive list of resources specific to your area, like parenting groups and perinatal therapists. If not, virtual doulas—just like us at Major Care—can tap into their national networks and help you find what you need in your area or online. If you need information or a recommendation, chances are, a doula’s got it.
Doulas are trained to recognize PMADs
As we mentioned, doulas aren’t mental health professionals. However, most doulas are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of PMADs like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum OCD. Doulas who specialize in the postpartum period (like us!) do get specific training on the signs of these mental health conditions.
A doula can recognize when a person may be experiencing a PMAD, have a conversation with the parent about what they’re experiencing, and then refer them for support and treatment.
A doula can also provide help and support for partners or other family members when a parent is diagnosed with a PMAD.
Doulas provide ideas and solutions
When things are hard, doulas have solutions. At the ready with suggestions that support your mental health, a doula is a bit of tactical genius for new parent life. When you’re navigating big stuff like lack of sleep, relationship changes, and infant feeding and more, doulas can provide suggestions on ways you can solve problems and help center yourself and your own needs. From helping you figure out a sleep shift schedule with your partner to reminders and encouragement to get outside and engage with things you love, a doula can help you cut through the overwhelm and find a way forward.
That goes for practical stuff, too. Need help picking a breast pump or bottle? Snack ideas? Or even a step-by-step plan on how to take a shower with your new babe? Working with a doula in the postpartum period can make your daily life feel easier and more in control.
About Major Care: Major Care is a doula-led maternal health company on a mission to tackle America’s postpartum care gap. We blend the power of guided learning with the support of virtual postpartum experts to create a safer and more supported experience for parents while addressing a $14B+ problem for providers, employers and payers. The My Fourth app, which is free, blends self-guided learning with virtual care. It includes a postpartum prep toolkit and six full weeks of daily guides to life after birth, with videos and content covering physical recovery, emotional health, lactation, relationships, and baby care. The app also offers plans for texting and video sessions with a diverse team of on-call doulas and lactation experts.