Maternal support in Seychelles: The postpartum period |12 April 2021
In the following interview with Celia Ponzo, we learn more about the potential problems that can arise during the postpartum period and the importance of preparing for it, as well as the importance of supporting new mothers after birth.
Ms Ponzo is the founder of Birth & Beyond, based in Seychelles, and is a trained Maternal Support Practitioner, also known as a Doula.
She also holds a Bsc in Medical Anthropology and a Masters in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Seychelles NATION: Can you explain to us a bit about the postpartum period and the importance of preparing for it?
Celia Ponzo: Preparing for birth is very important but we must not forget also the importance of preparing yourself for what to expect during the postpartum period. Being prepared on what to expect will facilitate a smooth transition into parenthood.
There are many subjects we can already prepare ourselves on prenatally, including breastfeeding preparation, what to expect of your mental health in the first months, what to expect on the amount of sleep you will be getting, and also how to maximise your healing through nutrition and gentle exercises.
For example for breastfeeding, most of us think it will come naturally and therefore don't take time to prepare on the possible difficulties that could arise during a new mother's breastfeeding journey, such as low milk flow, low supply, oversupply, nipple pain, mastitis, breast refusal, and the list goes on.
If we know how to identify and how to navigate through these problems, this will give us power to identify a problem but also know how to address it.
It is really about preparing yourself on what to expect, but also creating your support network. Ask your family and friends in advance what you need from them in order to feel fully supported when you will be in need. For example, identify different people to do different things for you; don't feel shy, you deserve the support, you would have just given birth and you will need to heal!
Seychelles NATION: You mentioned that the birth itself can affect a new mother during the postpartum period; can you explain more about this?
Celia Ponzo: Postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder also known as birth trauma. Women who have experienced traumatic events during labour and birth are more likely to develop this.
Some people feel that having a new baby makes up for any traumatic experiences, or they may think that enjoying being a new parent means they will soon forget about trauma. But these traumatic experiences can have a negative effect on your relationship with your baby and the people around you.
You may feel disappointed that childbirth was not the experience you were hoping for, or you might feel angry with the medical staff if you felt that the delivery wasn't handled well. Your experiences may also make you feel anxious about having another baby in future, in case you have to go through a similar experience during birth.
This is why nowadays there is more focus on preparing yourself to have the birth that you want and to empower yourself on your body, and what to expect from labour and giving birth.
Seychelles NATION: We see you've listed depression and anxiety as possible issues that can arise in the postpartum period. Tell us more about this.
Celia Ponzo: Giving birth can trigger a cocktail of emotions and every woman experiences it differently. You will not be able to know in advance which emotion you will experience.
Most new mothers experience the ‘baby blues’ after birth which include mood swings, crying spells, difficulty sleeping and anxiety, however if these continue after two weeks, we need to look into it further.
We only talk about postpartum depression but we forget that postpartum anxiety can be as difficult when you are constantly petrified that something will happen to your baby, so you will for example not sleep at night. What is important is to be able to identify this behaviour and then get the support that you need.
Too many new mothers have so much guilt in expressing what they are going through because often these are thoughts that could be perceived as ‘wrong’. We expect every new mother to be blissfully happy with her newborn but it doesn't always happen that way, and it is also okay to feel these emotions.
Seychelles NATION: You mentioned that after birth, the focus is on the baby and the mother is often forgotten. What are some of the potential problems relating to this? How can those around her help?
Celia Ponzo: Yes, this is exactly it. A pregnant woman is celebrated, given constant attention, asked how she is feeling, supported in her needs and is prioritized. Once the baby is born, the attention is completely drawn to the baby and suddenly the new mother is forgotten.
When a baby is born, a mother is born too; she is as vulnerable as her newborn child and she needs as much attention in order for her to thrive and give herself fully to nurture her baby. In some countries that I have worked in, the mother is nurtured fully for the first 6 weeks postpartum; she suddenly has her whole village at her feet helping her heal, nourishing her body with the right foods, but also given space to bond with her baby.
Unfortunately, this is very rare nowadays and the new mother often feels isolated, tired, malnourished and overwhelmed with emotions. There is also this pressure that she needs to spring back on her feet, get fit again, and fulfill her duties in the household while she stays home from work.
We can all contribute to helping a new mother thrive.
We can help her with house chores, dropping by a nutritious meal to her, asking her how she is doing rather than asking her only how the baby is doing, we can respect her space if that's what she needs, we can keep our advice to ourselves if she feels overwhelmed, and so on.
For more information:
- Visit: www.birthnbeyond.net
- Follow: Instagram: birth_beyond_
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Telephone/WhatsApp: 2 780 232