August 21st, 2017


Orgasmic Birth


Celestial Full Moon


In a sea of fantastic ecstatic energy

I awoke startled, surrounded by torrents of passionate waves,

Tossed about with involuntary movement, feeling like a galley slave.

Through my tempestuous body they rolled, uncontrolled and private.

Spontaneous pleasure as I was pushed onward toward each cresting summit,

Not understanding how to behave-

What to gather from this hidden pleasure- oh to be brave!

I noticed outside, the Celestial Full Moon,

An impending full eclipse taking place soon.

Another surge, I accepted willingly, how else could I be?

Driving me uncontrolled toward a blissful crest, 

My mind confused, I failed to seek comfort

From the tender guidance of my beloved.

I gathered my wits, helpless to accept grounding,

Utterly unsure of what could be happening;

As the intensity mounted I quickly surrendered-

Another swell carried me instantly hastening

To another wild zenith, ensuring my christening.

Wafting and tasting of lusty warm sweat

Intellectually, can't fully comprehend

Feeling driven by that glorious Celestial Full Moon, 

I'll never forget the adventure overtaking me, forever secure in my mind,

My Celestial baby preparing to be born soon, in her own time.

Impelled to squat, my water broke;

It gushed and flooded while the fresh sweet aroma

surrounded my unspoken aura, my essence, an offering.

Conscious of baby rapidly descending

As each wave unstoppable, eagerly impending

Brought a flood of euphoric feelings:

Quietly questioning how this could occur at birth-

Never before.  

Shouldn't there be pain with each rising force?

My others were different, more arduously intense of course.

Why is there pleasure and uncontrolled bliss?

Is it that vibrant Celestial Full Moon with progressing impending full eclipse so soon

Driving this birth with untamed and welcomed joyous power?

I moved to the bed where I tried to relax,

 For in this very hour

The midwife had yet to arrive- only thirty minutes had passed.

Releasing my wavering reliance on her

Trusting my body in the most profound surge

I reached down just as my baby emerged

Feeling her soft hair in privacy down there

Wet and creamy and juicy and warm, I can only stare-

As she slipped out of my body

I heard her first breath,

Then a lusty cry as she laid on my bare chest.

Fragrant and warm and slippery and sweet,

We gazed upon each other- the first time we meet.

Enjoying the miracle as that marvelous eclipse peaked,

That Celestial Full Moon with wonderment galore

Stealing my speech,

Trusting birth, forevermore.

 


Vaginal Steaming for the Childbearing Year

Effective Natural Therapy for Women

Vaginal steaming is a practice that is centuries old, and is found in cultures and indigenous populations all over the world. Steaming or “fumigating” as some ancient texts refer, is found in ancient Mayan, Aztec, Egyptian, Babylonian, and Ayurvedic medicine. These traditions have been passed down primarily from midwives to the women in their communities. Steaming is a practice of sitting over a prepared pot of water and herbs for a period of 10 to 30 minutes, allowing the herbal steam infusion to penetrate the vagina. Treating everything from infertility, to urinary tract infections, yeast, bacterial vaginosis, organ prolapse, fibroids, cysts and much more, especially during the 30 days postpartum. As these traditions are often passed orally, we want to spread the word that vaginal steaming is an alternative practice to support women in the childbearing year, and all the gynecological issues that may arise throughout life.

Vaginal steaming is found all over the world! In South America it is referred as “bajos”; in Indonesia you can find “vagina spas”; in Korea steaming is very common, and it’s also found in Vietnam, East Africa, Ghana, Haiti, Hawaii, Turkey, Middle East, Guatemala & Mexico, South Africa, South Pacific, Sweden and more. Throughout much of the world, women experience the benefits of steaming, especially in the postpartum period.

Vaginal steaming works because the steam carries the medicinal herbal properties deep into vaginal tissues, which are the most absorbent and porous tissue in the body. The warm steam softens and opens up the pores. Medicinal properties and volatile oils are released and carried with the steam, permeating and absorbed into the uterus and bloodstream. This practice “steam cleans” the womb, increasing circulation to the vagina and womb, rejuvenating the reproductive system. This speeds tissue repair from increased circulation. Steam tones and nourishes the vaginal tissue with herbs that cleanse and replenish blood, moisturize, disinfect, and more.

There are many benefits for women who steam in the childbearing year, including preparing the womb before conception- cleaning the uterus of old residue, nourishing and bringing qui (energy), and also treating any vaginal infections. You donot​ want to steam ​during​ pregnancy, as it would open the cervix, possibly causing premature labor. In the postpartum period, a woman would benefit from the steam which clears the lochia, reducing the chance of infection. Additionally, steaming shrinks

the uterus, closes the vaginal opening and canal, helping to keep organs in place. Steam has a rising action helping prolapse and bladder incontinence. Steaming reduces skin swelling, helps with hemorrhoids, and can strengthen and nourish a depleted womb. Vaginal steaming disperses dampness from water retained during pregnancy. ​The water retained can turn to fat after three to four weeks postpartum​- an issue many of us have experienced! Steaming after birth also addresses past problems such as fibroids or cysts, while the cervix is open- typically four to six weeks after birth. Steaming also releases oxytocin! I have heard numerous reports of lovely experiences from women’s steaming sessions! In Korea, it is a ​shame ​on the family if they do not care for a mama after birth with vaginal steaming.

In one study in Malaysia, researchers found “vaginal heat in postpartum recovery among traditional midwives to enhance the healing process of the uterus, breaking up fat and clots, drying and tightening the vagina. Traditionally used to reduce swelling, eliminate foul odor, improve blood flow, and enhance the healing of cuts and wounds. Steaming tightens the pelvic floor muscle which improves sexual response while preventing gynecological problems such as prolapse.” The study points out that indigenous knowledge is often passed down from villagers and traditional healers, based on oral history through the generations {1}.

It is important to use appropriate herbs, as some herbs ​promote​ bleeding for those with long cycles, and some herbs ​prevent​ intermittent bleeding for those with short cycles. Supporting the uterus according to each woman’s particular needs is an important step, as each woman is unique and one herb is not the same as another for each individual woman.

Vaginal steam traditions have been passed down through the ages by most cultures through the oral and traditional knowledge of healers in their communities. Let us as birth keepers spread the knowledge of the healing benefits of vaginal steaming. It is the up to midwives and other birth workers to impart this information as an alternative therapy to the conventional practices many women experience today. Vaginal steaming benefits all women during the childbearing year, and especially during the postpartum healing period.

Resources
Keli Garza- Steamy Chicks: Vaginal Steam Practitioner Training
{1} ​​https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Inas​ ​Traditional Malay midwifery practices of point massage (bertungku) and vaginal heat (bertangas) treatment for postnatal treatment among Malay culture at east coast of Malaysia: Rashidi Othman*a, Nur Illani Abdul Razaka, Nooriszai Ishakaa; International Institute for Halal Research and Training (INHART). Pgs 253-257

June 4th 2018                    


                          Life After Baby- Dealing with Postpartum Depression

                                                                                                                Part 1 

  Whether a paid job, or the “work” of motherhood, there are many expectations for new mothers, but scarce resources and allowances for healing mind, body and spirit after your baby is born.  Few people are paying attention to how mom is dealing with the transition of birth, when she is just as tender as that new baby. The wear and tear of pregnancy and the hormones that come with it can set a mom up for postpartum depression.  Current studies show that antidepressants may be ineffective in treating postpartum depression. Community support is a natural intervention for women who experience the hormones and life changing experience of birth, women who are at risk for postpartum depression.  What exactly is postpartum depression?

           Postpartum depression or PPD according to the Oxford Dictionary, “Is a depression suffered by a mother following childbirth, typically arising from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue.”  Features of PPD are sleep disturbance, low energy, irritability, low self-worth, poor concentration, anxiety, loss of appetite, crying, loss of pleasure, low energy, sadness, hopelessness.  PPD is not a single dis-ease, but a syndrome encompassing many mood symptoms and multiple causes {3}. It’s a rough spiral once started: the lethargy of depression induces shame as women feel guilty for not meeting their own standards and expectations in their life. Standards of homemaking, daily routines and personal wellness, partly set by our society in getting right back to life after birth. Women judge themselves as weak, so we are hesitant to speak up when we need help- living in denial of our pain and spiraling lower in our mental health. The loss of pleasure robs satisfaction and reward in self-care, and completing everyday tasks and accomplishments becomes difficult. The more shame, the more likely we keep our struggles a secret. It’s a viscous cycle of low energy= low self-esteem= loss of accomplishment= more shame…. {1}. Pregnancy and birth are taxing on a mother’s body, and hormones can wreak havoc on self-esteem and balance in a woman’s life.

            During pregnancy, we offer our body as a living sacrifice to grow a baby.  It seems unfair that postpartum women are two to three times more likely to suffer PPD than men {3}. Here in the West, 20% of antenatal women experience PPD, with a range worldwide between 8% and 38% {4}, with its inception greatest in the first twelve weeks postpartum {2}.  Why are we so susceptible? The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the postpartum period receives less attention from health care professionals than in the prenatal period {1}. Women don’t usually see a doctor until 6 weeks postpartum {1}.  That is a LONG time to wait for healing and the care mothers really need.  It’s also partly our Western culture.  Here in America, we are proud to be individuals. This attitude makes it hard to reach out for help, and we have a lack of support as family, friends and neighbors are busy with their own family and work responsibilities {1}. In other cultures, such as China, Japan and Malaysia, they have traditional “confinement” practices to help new mothers adjust, receiving help from her family so she can rest and recover her physical and emotional strength. Environmental factors like stress, mental or emotional trauma, viral infections, hormonal disorders and drugs such as oral contraceptives or medications such as sedatives all play a part in the assaults on the emotional well-being of a new mom. Lack of social support is associated with the development of postpartum depression {1}.  We need community for support, strength and healing during the antenatal period.

            Our culture typically proposes medication when one experiences depression, often in the form of anti-depressants or specifically SSRI’s (Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) to “balance” the brain chemicals.  According to Kelly Brogan in her book “A Mind of Your Own,” “The serotonin theory of depression is a total myth.” She shares numerous examples to explode the myth with many studies to support her evidence.  She points out that 85% of un-medicatedpatients recover within a year from depression and 67% within 6 months! Also, that Prozac was named in more than 40,000 reports of adverse effects! Dr. Irvine Kirsh, a respected Harvard psychologist, researcher, and expert on the placebo effect, found that “a placebo duplicated 75% of the (antidepressant) effect, that non-antidepressant medications had the same effect as antidepressants…!”Another study found antidepressants outperformed placebos in only twenty out of forty-six trials- which included hidden unpublished studies which suppressed true data{5}. Antidepressant’s unpredictable effects can also rob us of the ability to find permanent relief through our body’s own powerful capabilities to heal.  Here are links for more information about the effects of SSRI’s: SurvivingAntidepressents.org, BeyondMeds.com, SSRIstories {5}.  There are other sources of support that may support women and have a positive impact in the childbearing years. Studies verify that community support is effective in guiding women during this vulnerable time when hormones are shifting, and women are adapting to new responsibilities.  

            There is hope for the future! Depression is not your fault or a sign of weakness! PPD receives less attention from health care providers even though it is covered by insurance. Women are often discharged within 2 days of a natural birth and are not seen by a health care professional for six weeks, leaving mom to cope without support during this crucial transition period {1}. Social support is a significant, protective factor for postpartum depression. Having a larger number of people to provide social support during pregnancy has a greater protective effect on pregnant moms, especially for mothers with depression during pregnancy {3}. Starting to build community during pregnancy may be the bridge new moms need to transition into motherhood. Start your journey today by connecting with a friend.  Write down each positive thing in your day and focus on those things.  And join me here for part two with evidence and practical ideas to create HOPE FOR THE FUTURE- building local community support for childbearing women.

 

Resources:

{1} Corrigan, Catherine P., Andrea N. Kwasky, and Carla J. Groh. “Social Support, Postpartum Depression, and Professional Assistance: A Survey of Mothers in the Midwestern United States.” The Journal of Perinatal Education 24.1 (2015): 48–60. PMC. Web. 9 May 2018.

{2} Dennis, C.-L. (2003). The Effect of Peer Support on Postpartum Depression: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry / La Revue canadienne de psychiatrie, 48(2), 115-124.

{3} Leung, Brenda & Kaplan, Bonnie. (2009). Perinatal Depression: Prevalence, Risks, and the Nutrition Link-A Review of the Literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109. 1566-75. 10.1016/j.jada.2009.06.368.

{4} Aktas, Songul, and Kiymet Yesilcicek Calik. “Factors Affecting Depression During Pregnancy and the Correlation Between Social Support and Pregnancy Depression.” Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal 17.9 (2015): e16640. PMC. Web. 9 May 2018.

{5} Kelly Brogan “A Mind of Your Own” 2016

 

My Journey to Midwifery

September 5th, 2017

  August 21st, 2017





   
 At 19 years old, I found myself hitchhiking to “The Farm” Commune in Tennessee with my first pregnancy.  Legal midwifery didn’t exist in my hometown in Illinois, so I began the conquest to find natural birth, starting my adventures that spanned the next 23 years and 14 babies.  My diverse experiences birthing at The Farm, then in the hospital, and then unassisted in 1983, each led me along a path to become a student of traditional midwifery.

     After our arrival to the commune, we spent many days connecting to The Farm midwives preparing for our first birth.  Their positive attitude towards birth reassured us, giving strength to my mission. Reading the stories in “Spiritual Midwifery”, I felt mentally prepared as the awaited day approached. Labor began a couple days before I had expected. Excitement mounted as I lost my mucous plug and contractions began. Active labor ensued by the time our midwife arrived and I soon entered transition.  As the baby quickly emerged, I questioned, then accepted an automatic episiotomy!  No offer to naturally stretch, or to wait and see if I tore needing a stitch. Because of the episiotomy, I did receive a couple of stitches which seemed to cause pain throughout the next year.  The midwives insisted on the PKU testing. We struggled against their advice with much guilt inflicted by them. Feeling overall grateful for this experience, yet realizing there were aspects I didn’t agree with, I had no clue how this birth would contrast my next two deliveries.

     During my following pregnancy in Arizona, labor started at 28 weeks.  Thankful we had recently met with our chosen midwife as she traveled with me to the Tucson University Hospital in hopes that labor hadn’t begun. Things progressed quickly once we arrived.  The doctors completed some assessments and assured me the baby wouldn’t arrive anytime soon. He did a cervical check, and to his surprise I was 7 cm. dilated. Nurses quickly prepared for delivery where several student physicians waited in the room.  Suddenly, the doctor and medical students discussed why they needed to use forceps on this tiny baby.  My husband stood firm while the medical attendants bullied us, saying our baby could experience brain damage if we didn’t comply.  Because we birthed at a university hospital, they felt privileged to use plenty of intervention. We suffered, completely out of control. I determined to avoid this kind of experience in the future.

     The profound difference between the hospital birth and the next birth solidified my belief in woman’s ability to birth peacefully, without the interventions I experienced in the two previous births. When labor began, we discovered our midwife attending another birth.  Labor lasted only thirty minutes and she did not arrive until after the birth of the baby.  There was zero intervention; I followed my body’s lead and felt peace and calm, trusting my intuition that everything would be fine.  This was my largest baby: nine pounds, and I experienced not only painless, but pleasant surges!  I focused mental effort to completely relax and not assist with pushing. I vividly remember laying on the bed, watching and feeling my body naturally release my baby into the serene surroundings of our home.

      The experience of those three births led me to know that birth is trustworthy if left alone to follow its own natural course. I felt deeply inspired and called to help women find their own capabilities and inner strengths to give birth without unnecessary interventions. I went on to undertake 11 more natural undisturbed births ranging from two to six hours of labor.  Those beginning births confirmed my convictions to passionately assist others.  When the Indie Birth Midwifery School opened, it perfectly aligned with me. Investing my time and energy, getting the knowledge and preparation I need, I will go out into the world to support other women. Walking beside these birth warriors with strength, optimistic encouragement, and knowledge is my renewed mission as women find their power in birth. 





April 5th, 2019

March 26, 2019

  • Benefits of nutrition for mental health - 6:13:18, 7.10 AM8:02

The Importance of Pleasure in our Life

​Mountain Midwife

Sacred Birth Services

       Mountain Midwife Sacred Blog

Guiding Your Sacred Journey with Knowledge, Love and Passion

June 13th, 2018

Benefits of Nutrition for Mental Health in Pregnancy and Postpartum

an I-Tunes Podcast



           We are intertwined with our natural world since the beginning of time. We thrive in the wonders of mountain and forest beauty, vibrant streams, intense ocean waves beating against the shores, and rainbows after a fragrant rain shower that enliven us. In our modern society, it is easy to become removed from nature and our authentic selves by the distractions of a technical world. But we are created to experience pleasure to balance our hectic lives. Taking time to slow down and practice life in awareness, we gain immense enjoyment from our senses and presence in our daily activities.  Have you ever felt peace walking barefoot through the forest?  How about sitting in silence under the tranquility of the full moon and you became aware in awe how vast the universe is?  Have you listened to a concert and responded to the pulse of the beat coursing through your body and felt in sync?  Are there times in your week that you are blissed out by whatever turns you on?
            The importance of experiencing pleasure is well documented for our physical, emotional and spiritual health.  Reducing stress and giving yourself the privilege of this basic need for pleasure is validating as a human being.  Here are a few ideas to get your thought process flowing with variations of sensual pleasure. Consider making time for some of these in your life: 

 

  • Music that you enjoy listening to or participating in is known to bring peace and healing to the brain.  Pleasure producing chemicals change brain waves for peace of mind in our chaotic world.

  • Visual beauty, whether out in nature, sitting yourself by a window at work, or surrounding yourself with pictures or decor that brings pleasure and feeds your spirit, just as nutritious food feeds your body.

 

  • Sense of smell, whether through an ocean breeze, a walk after the rain, or aromatherapy can be medicinal on many levels. Breathing the fragrance of nature or special essential oils is healing physically and emotionally.  Binding scents with pleasant memories from past to present can bring peace and happiness into your life.

 

  • Taste is another way to bring pleasure in more than one way.  Eating nutritious food brings contentment from taste, and a sense of doing the right thing for your body besides giving you energy and health.  This satisfies mind, body and spirit.​

  • Touch is an experience that brings pleasure, health and well-being.  Massaging natural and aromatic oils stimulates good feelings and releases healing chemicals, improving circulation and promoting sleep.


Can you find ways to incorporate sensual pleasure into your life? What activities can you add to your weekly schedule that bring peace, joy and a feeling of being pampered?  Take baby steps and try adding one new pleasure this week.  You are worthy; take time for yourself.

      The Baby’s Birth Experience: “Above All, Do No Harm”

Babies DO remember birth. This concept is a profound notion, as we are coming out of an era where babies were thought to be undeveloped, unaware beings. There have been many myths promoted by medical personnel through their medical training, that babies don't feel pain, or babies don’t remember, their brains are primitive and underdeveloped at birth, babies can’t think and more misunderstandings. Research has proven all of these ideas are mistaken, and babies are very aware in the womb and at birth. Traumas experienced by the baby are in reality overwhelming and scary! When babies experience trauma, it can become locked or imprinted in their developing behavior and psyche, causing difficulties later in that child’s life. Awareness in the mom that during pregnancy, lifestyle affects baby, and the birth team’s actions during delivery can have a huge impact on the future mental and physical wellness of babies being born today. There are ways to recognize trauma in babies, and therapies available to release the negative imprints from early life. There is hope for the future!

Much of what is believed about babies awareness and development at birth is false. Babies are complex human beings, not underdeveloped creatures as thought in most of the twentieth century. Babies can pick their mom’s face out of a gallery of photos, or recognize her smell or voice shortly after birth. Eyes and head turn with

sound; they know how to breastfeed soon after birth, and more. Results of many studies show that babies learn from their experiences, just like everyone else {1}.

Procedures from the medical team without insight that babies feel pain and emotion, subject babies to being traumatized in the birth setting. When the staff view a baby as unaware or undeveloped, babies are likely to become victimized at the hands of doctors and nurses, who are in denial of the studies that prove otherwise. Hospital protocol is designed for staff, not for babies, staff who are ignorant of baby’s unfolding experience {1}. Some of the things that go awry include taking the baby from mom at birth- the infant may identify this as rejection by mom. Bright lights and rough handling shock baby, bulb or deep suctioning, fetal scalp monitoring, reactions to medications given to mom or baby, vision blurring ointment in the eyes, shots, circumcision, severe cord entanglement, emotions of the mom, and more affect baby. These experiences are internalized as trauma to the baby, affecting them in the future.

Birth trauma imprints through a process called limbic imprinting. This imprinting can stay with a person through their entire life and will recreate the conditions that were imprinted at birth. Infants who suffer birth trauma may seem withdrawn, may want to be held all the time or not at all; they could have feeding issues, choking or spitting up. Feelings can manifest as codependency, fear, desire to control situations, feeling unloved and other dysfunctional behavior {2}. “80% of children with sensory processing disorders, ADHD, developmental delays and autism have a history of birth trauma {3}. We must consider the baby in birth!

“Studies show sense of taste begins around 14 weeks after conception, and a sense of hearing around 20 weeks. Science confirms that infants are social beings who can form close relationships, express themselves forcefully, exhibit preferences, and begin influencing people from the start” {1}. Does it really take studies to know what our instincts have already told us? Birth trauma is a relatively new thing. What was birth like before the beginning of obstetrics? Likely a midwife attended birth in mom’s own home environment, welcoming baby without traumatic interventions.

There are many things we as mothers can do to support a gentle pregnancy for our babies. Take time daily to lay hands on your growing belly. Convey love, or sing to baby- this will increase trust and bonding. In India, mothers are encouraged to meditate as much as she wishes, to reduce stress and increase health of the developing baby. In Bali, mothers are honored during pregnancy, and fed the best foods. They believe by honoring the mother, the baby is honored {4}. Real prenatal care from a good midwife is also reassuring, bringing peace and confidence through their close relationship. Having a gentle birth, welcoming your baby in the peace of your surroundings is another way to avoid birth trauma.

If trauma is noticed in a baby, massage is a wonderful healing therapy to offer them. Do a full body massage, noting where baby recoils at your touch. Other signs of trauma are pushing away, and even slapping by a distressed baby. Massage helps to work through painful birth memories, so go slowly as the baby is experienceing these emotions. The baby may even cry as they release past memories. If baby seems stressed, take a break and try feeding, or another activity to sooth them. Attempt

massage again later, or the next day. Use soft and reassuring tones in your voice, expressing your love- even telling the birth story, and putting words to their experience for them. For older children, re-enacting their birth story can be very healing {2}.

Babies DO remember birth. New studies and experiments are proving that babies do suffer pain and trauma in pregnancy and birth.​ ​As this momentum increases

in research and awareness grows, so do more therapies develop to help resolve trauma suffered by babies. Let us each start by protecting the mamas, which will support and protect babies experiencing unnecessary trauma. “Above all, do no harm” {5}.

References

{1} Chamberlain, David. “Babies Remember Birth.” ​Pathways to Family Wellness.​
{2} ​Gentry, Autumn. “Preventing and Healing Birth Trauma.” ​Midwifery Today,​ 2010.
{3} ​Margolis, Anne. “What Does Birth Trauma in Babies Look Like?” H​ ome Sweet Homebirth - Holistic Birth & Health Services,​ Home Sweet Homebirth - Holistic Birth & Health Services, 18 Feb. 2018, homesweethomebirth.com/blog/birth-trauma-in-babies.{4} ​Lim, Robin. “Baby Is Listening.” ​Midwifery Today​, 2019.
{5} Hippocratic Oath

​June 5th, 2018                                   

                                                    Hope for the Future: 
                      Life After Baby- Dealing with Postpartum Depression
                                                        Part 2
 

 
            Many women who are expecting a new baby have ideas and dreams of life afterward. As pregnancy unfolds and birth happens, women are often left alone, confused, overwhelmed, and feeling isolated during a time they thought might be baby bliss. Our society prides itself on independence, and “having it all together” and that is what is represented on social media. Many women are suffering with postpartum depression in silence, fear, and shame, forbidding themselves to reach out. Research shows that women who have social support during pregnancy and the postpartum period are less likely to develop postpartum depression {1}.  There are many ways that local communities can offer social support to pregnant and new moms, which will benefit the entire community as women expand into their new identities. 

            We’ve heard the phrase: “If mama isn’t happy, then nobody is happy.”  Mothers are the lifeblood of the family, which impacts our communities with a ripple effect.  New moms need nurturing and support to grow strong- strength to support our families and the people surrounding us.  During pregnancy, we cope with numerous hormones and many other forces that really throw our physical & mental balance and identity out the window.  We go through labor and birth, and then everyone’s focus is on the baby, while mom tries independently to “pull herself together,” but feeling overwhelmed with childcare and life responsibilities {1}. Here in America, we tough out the isolation, fears, and feeling overwhelmed, while seeing other moms appear to embrace motherhood with one hand tied behind their back.  We are afraid to reach out- being “branded” as depressed and unable to cope. But “the consensus among researchers is that an increased level of social support is associated with less postpartum depression” {1}. 

 Women need someone to talk to about their pregnancy and postpartum experiences; to feel they are loved, valued and have help from people who care about them. “The need for social support, breastfeeding issues, lack of education about newborn care…and the need for help with postpartum depression” are themes that emerged in a study by Kanotra et al., 2007, pg.549. Resources, education, support and being interactive in community go a long way in helping new moms cope with life and their new responsibilities {1}. It may be a difficult for women to reach out for assistance the first weeks after baby arrives while her life transitions into motherhood. Having a number of people available during pregnancyto provide social support has a greater protective effect on pregnant mothers against PPD during pregnancy and in the postpartum period {2}. There are many ideas for community support, and studies show that even telephone-based peer support may significantly decrease depressive symptoms in some mothers {3}. “Weekly phone calls after birth to screen mothers…could expedite early diagnosis and treatment for PPD” {1} and this could be worked into a community support project. Social support positively and directly affects one’s health {4}, and this can be a highlight in a mom’s new routine. The WHO recommends individualizing care and placing the mother and her infant at the center of that care to meet the needs of the dyad (WHO, 2008). 

            Community support ideas can be employed by anyone and could be individualized for the needs of the women within meetings.  The following ideas could be used during a park day, at the library (you can hold non-profit meetings for free when pre-scheduled), rotated through women’s homes, or get a local church or business to sponsor the meetings. Support meetings could be held weekly or monthly, and women who couldn’t make the meetings could skype in to be included virtually. Here is a list of possibilities activate your own ideas:

- Start each meeting with a cleansing meditation- then check in with each woman. Include enough time to hold space while women speak + validate their issues.
-  Rotate topics surrounding natural support for depression: nutrition, movement, gut health, supplements, getting out in nature and grounding with the earth, self- care, making personal space and time for meditation or prayer in their homes in a beautiful way with personal treasures, flowers and meaningful items…
-  Include special speakers when available.
Activities as part of each meeting: 
-  Attending women may want to lead art, craft, or skilled projects for the other women.
-  Leader led classes such as infant massage, mama-baby yoga, honoring ceremonies for new moms, crafting vision boards, making herbal and essential oil preparations for health and home, tie-dying, vaginal steam sessions, cooking or fermenting projects, music making and more!
-  Movie night, with childcare provided for a donation if they can afford. Here they could bring in the crones (elders in the community) or teens to help with childcare.
-  Rotate childcare between moms so they each have time off: for instance, 3 women; one woman take the other two mom’s children on an agreed upon day- for instance a play date on Tuesday afternoon.  Then that mom earns twofree breaks for each time she watches the other mother’s children.
-  Invite crones of the community to the meetings to bridge the gap of care and wisdom that young mothers often need. 
-  Hotline to talk when they need help, rotated with the crones, women who attend the meetings and the coordinator. Women from the group can sign up to serve the time in between meetings.
-  Videos of infant feeding, massage, movement ideas, and additional care of infant and mother available to check out and take home.
-  Local resources for additional help available.
-  Private Facebook group for continued support.
-  Look into local or government funding for supporting postpartum women during this time of transition.

Women who have traversed the road of motherhood know it can be a lonely, insecure rocky place.  Feelings of depression are not uncommon, so please feel no shame or guilt if you aren’t overjoyed in the new role of motherhood as you redefine your identity.  We know from Part One of this article previously, that 85% of un-medicated women recover from depression within a year. Community support is one natural and healthy opportunity to surround yourself with others who understand, validate, and support your journey. You are our hope for the future. 

* “It is important to note that peer support may not be an adequate treatment option for all cases of postpartum depression” {2}.
 
Resources:

{1} Corrigan, Catherine P., Andrea N. Kwasky, and Carla J. Groh. “Social Support, Postpartum Depression, and Professional Assistance: A Survey of Mothers in the Midwestern United States.” The Journal of Perinatal Education 24.1 (2015): 48–60. PMC. Web. 9 May 2018.

{2} Morikawa, Mako et al. “Relationship between Social Support during Pregnancy and Postpartum Depressive State: A Prospective Cohort Study.” Scientific Reports 5 (2015): 10520. PMC. Web. 10 May 2018.

{3} Dennis, C.-L. (2003). The Effect of Peer Support on Postpartum Depression: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry / La Revue canadienne de psychiatrie, 48(2), 115-124.

{4} Aktas, Songul, and Kiymet Yesilcicek Calik. “Factors Affecting Depression During Pregnancy and the Correlation Between Social Support and Pregnancy Depression.” Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal 17.9 (2015): e16640. PMC. Web. 9 May 2018.