One of the things I am passionate about when it comes to birth is postpartum care. I feel it is very important for women to make a postpartum plan so that she can take the time needed to heal physically and to bond with baby. Taking this transition time slowly and gently will greatly increase the emotional health of mama.
Here is an interview with My friend, Jess. She lives in Germany and tells of her experiences with postpartum care in Europe. What can we learn from postpartum care in other countries? How does what you read here differ from your postpartum experiences?
“I have given birth in three different countries. It was never a goal I was striving to achieve but it’s the way it turned out for me. My first two were born in America, my third was born in Dublin, Ireland and my fourth in Berlin, Germany. People often ask me which country provided the best birth experience. It is hard to say which was the best because there are so many factors--but I can emphatically say that the best post birth and recovery experiences were both in Ireland and in Germany.
Oliver, my Irish born baby, was born with the support of a wonderful group of midwives. They cared for me through my entire pregnancy, supported me as I gave birth naturally in the hospital and came to my house for postnatal care. For the first 5 days postpartum, the midwives came to check in on us at home. The first visit, three of the midwives came. They were warm and friendly and so happy for us. They congratulated me and told me that they had heard how amazing I had done during the birth. One of them checked my stomach and my uterus and asked about my bleeding and another weighed and changed Oliver. They asked about breast-feeding, watched me feed Oliver to make sure everything was working smoothly and answered any questions or concerns we had. They told me a midwife from the group would come each day for the next 5 days and they wanted to find me in bed each time they arrived. One midwife told me to stay in my pajamas and upstairs for at least a week. “If you get too dressed up people will start expecting too much of you” she said. I had my Mom and husband there to help me so it was easy to follow their orders. They said the same thing to my husband and my Mom so everyone knew that I was to be upstairs and no one should expect anything from me other than to feed the baby.
My next baby was born in Berlin, Germany. Annabelle. After she was born, we were transferred to our own private room and bathroom. The pediatricians had specific timelines for the baby’s check ups and the last one was done 36 hours after birth. We had in-laws to care for our other kids and a private room so we decided to stay. After three days in the hospital we were very happy to come home. I told my midwife that we were home and she came to see me. Just like in Ireland she wanted me to be in bed when she got here and instructed me to rest and stay in bed. She came every day at first and then spaced out her visits as I recovered more and more. She weighed Annabelle and recorded her growth, cleaned the umbilical cord, checked in on breastfeeding, asked how much she was sleeping and checked my uterus. It was nice to be able to ask her questions and get reassurance that my symptoms and concerns were normal. My favorite thing she did was give me a stomach massage. She brought her own oils and said this was to help the uterus shrink back to its normal size. It was always very calming and after that she usually just tiptoed out while I drifted off the sleep. The more I recovered the more spaced out her visits were until I said that I didn’t feel like I needed them anymore. I liked how flexible her care was. She would have kept coming for as long and as often as I felt I needed the support.
Postnatal care is easy to underestimate but it is so important for new mothers, even third and fourth time mothers. When I look back at all four of my post birth experiences, I remember feeling so much more anxiety with the first two children. In America, as soon as I got home, we were alone. With European post care, I knew that if there was ever a concern I would be able to ask the midwives without needing to go to the doctor. I got to have the medical help I needed all from the comfort of my own bed. I also really appreciated how everyone in my household was told that I should stay in bed and rest so the expectations were clear and I did not ever have to feel like I wasn’t doing enough.
There is something really special about women supporting women in the recovery of a birth. To feel supported and cared for lifted my spirits and gave me daily reminders that I was doing a good job, that I was enough and that I was just where I needed to be.”
-Permission to share given by Jessica Harnos