(Read the rest of this article here: DOI: 10.1891/JPE-2022-0017)
Jodi Graves, Birth & Postpartum Doula, BS, MS Nutrition
Many newly postpartum women and birthing people are sent home from the hospital with their newborn
babies, ill-prepared to care for themselves with little to no capacity to learn about newborn care and
parenting. Women are often left to fend for themselves in the “black hole” of health care in 6 weeks
post-birth that the United States calls postpartum care. Postpartum doulas can be the first line of defense,
helping people identify potential postpartum physical and mental health issues, and in many places, they
are doing it on the front lines and in the homes of newly postpartum women and families. In this guest
opinion piece, the author discusses her personal experience with birth and how it led her to become an
advocate for postpartum doulas.
According to a recent National Center for Health Statistics report (Hoyert, 2022), the rates of maternal death post-birth for White women (up to the first year postpartum) increased from 14.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018 to 17.4 in 2019 and 20.1 per 100,000 births in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. In 2021, that number jumped to 23.8 deaths (Langmaid, 2022). This does not account for the significant increase in these risks for Black women, which is truly its own crisis and is more than double those of White women at 55.3 deaths per 100,000 (Roeder, 2019).
In addition to some of the worst statistics in the world for maternal and infant mortality rates, postpartum mood disorders (PPMD) like anxiety and depression are being reported at a rate of one in seven (Torres, 2020). Giving birth in the United States can be a dangerous business, and postpartum doulas may be the link between these dangers and a healthy, safe recovery.
I became a birth doula in 1999, after the birth of my first child. I was the definition of “ignorance is bliss” and had no idea what was about to happen. I did my best to ignore the idea that my baby would eventually have to be born! After a precipitous birth due to too much Pitocin, which left me with a 4th-degree tear and a need for years of pelvic floor therapy, I knew there had to be a better way to give birth in this country. It had to be wrong that I was not allowed to advocate for myself or participate in the process. This birth experience is precisely what led me to help other women so they would never have to suffer that way.
The Journal of Perinatal Education Vol 32 Issue 4, Nov 2023, https: DOI: 10.1891/JPE-2022-0017