How Different Cultures Protect New Mothers, by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett examines how other cultures protect new mothers’ well-being.

Is ours not a strange culture that focuses so much attention on childbirth—virtually all of it based on anxiety and fear—and so little on the crucial time after birth, when patterns are established that will affect the individual and the family for decades? Suzanne Arms.

As citizens of an industrialized nation, we often act as if we have nothing to learn from low-income, developing countries. Yet many of these cultures are doing something extraordinarily right—especially in how they care for new mothers. In their classic paper, Stern and Kruckman (1983) present an anthropological critique of the literature. They found that in the cultures they studied, postpartum disorders, including the “baby blues,” were virtually nonexistent. By contrast, 50% to 85% of new mothers in industrialized nations experience the “baby blues,” and 15% to 25% (or more) experience postpartum depression.

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Ken Tackett

What makes the difference?

Stern and Kruckman noted that cultures who had a low incidence of postpartum mood disorders all had rituals that provided support and care for new mothers. These cultures, although quite different from each other, all shared

5 protective social structures

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Ken Tackett
  1. A distinct postpartum period. In these other cultures, the postpartum period is recognized as a time that is distinct from normal life. It is a time when the mother is supposed to recuperate. Her activities are limited and her female relatives take care of her. This type of care was also common in colonial America, when postpartum was referred to as the “lying-in” period. This period functioned as a time of “apprenticeship,” when more experienced mothers mentored the new mother.
  2. Protective measures reflecting the new mother’s vulnerability. During the postpartum period, new mothers are recognized as being especially vulnerable. Ritual bathing, washing of hair, massage, binding of the abdomen, and other types of personal care are prominent in the postpartum rituals of rural Guatemala, Mayan women in the Yucatan, Latina women both in the United States and Mexico. These rituals also mark the postpartum period as distinct from other times in women’s lives.
  3. Social seclusion and mandated rest. Postpartum is a time for the mother to rest, regain strength, and care for the baby. Related to the concept of vulnerability is the widespread practice of social seclusion for new mothers. For example, in the Punjab, women and their babies are secluded from everyone but female relatives and their midwives for five days. Seclusion is said to promote breastfeeding and it limits a woman’s normal activities. In contrast, many American mothers are expected to entertain others—even during their hospital stay. Once they get home, this practice continues as they are often expected to entertain family and friends who come to see the baby.
  4. Functional assistance. In order for seclusion and mandated rest to occur, mothers must be relieved of their normal workload. In these cultures, women are provided with someone to take care of older children and perform their household duties. As in the colonial period in the United States, women often return to the homes of their family of origin to ensure that this type of assistance is available.
  5. Social recognition of her new role and status. In the cultures Stern and Kruckman studied, there was a great deal of personal attention given to the mother. In China and Nepal, very little attention is paid to the pregnancy; much more attention is focused on the mother after the baby is born. This has been described as “mothering the mother.” For example, the status of the new mother is recognized through social rituals and gifts. In Punjabi culture, there is the “stepping-out ceremony,” which includes ritual bathing and hair washing performed by the midwife, and a ceremonial meal prepared by a Brahmin. When the mother returns to her husband’s family, she returns with many gifts she has been given for herself and the baby. The following is a description of a postpartum ritual performed by the Chagga of Uganda. It differs quite a bit from what mothers in industrialized countries may experience. 

Three months after the birth of her child, the Chagga woman’s head is shaved and crowned with a bead tiara, she is robed in an ancient skin garment worked with beads, a staff such as the elders carry is put in her hand, and she emerges from her hut for her first public appearance with her baby. Proceeding slowly towards the market, they are greeted with songs such as are sung to warriors returning from battle. She and her baby have survived the weeks of danger. The child is no longer vulnerable, but a baby who has learned what love means, has smiled its first smiles, and is now ready to learn about the bright, loud world outside (Dunham, 1992; p. 148).

What American mothers experience

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Ken Tackett

By contrast, American mothers often find that people are more concerned about them before the birth. While a woman is pregnant, people may offer to help her carry things or to open doors or to ask how she is feeling. Friends will give her a baby shower, where she will receive emotional support and gifts for her baby. There are prenatal classes and prenatal checkups, and many people wanting to know about the details of her daily experience.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below….)

https://womenshealthtoday.blog/2017/07/30/how-cultures-protect-the-new-mother/amp/

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We Need to Talk About the Baby Blues, by Stacy Hersher

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I have a confession to make: the first couple of weeks after my baby was born, I was unhappy. Sure, I had moments of pure joy, and I never wavered in my love for my daughter. But I was exhausted, in pain, and had no control of my emotions. I had the “baby blues” — and it was scary.

Between feeding my daughter, sleeping, and eating, I felt like I was reduced to a milk-producing machine. I wasn’t going outside, I couldn’t exercise, and it felt like there was no time to do anything but sleep, feed, and eat in order for us both to survive. Was this my life now? Had motherhood completely replaced everything else that I was? In low moments, I thought about how much easier life was before. I wondered if this parenting thing would ever get easier, and the weight of my new life was heavy.

The emotional roller coaster wasn’t just negative. I also felt an overwhelming love for my baby, my husband, my family, and my friends. I cried any time I thought or talked about the sacrifices my parents had made for me, or how wonderful a dad my husband already was, or how thankful I was for the friends who came by to cook, clean, or hold my baby.

Good and bad, the reality is I was crying upwards of 10 times a day. As someone who prides myself on being pretty level-headed, I wasn’t sure how to navigate these emotions and felt pretty lost and alone. I was hyperaware of my emotions but unable to explain them. And as much as my husband tried to help, there wasn’t much he could do. My heightened emotions were just a wave I needed to ride. Thankfully, because of a conversation I had with my sister-in-law Jessie, I wasn’t totally surprised that this was happening.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below)…

http://www.popsugar.com/moms/What-Baby-Blues-43143736?utm_source=com_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=com_newsletter_v3_02152017&em_recid=180811001&utm_content=placement_7_desc

World Suicide Prevention Day

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Suicide is a tough issue and one which affects all age groups.  Many who choose to take their own lives are children or young people– teens are particularly vulnerable.  Most of us know someone who has committed suicide and understand the ongoing trauma and guilt for those left behind.  September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day.

Global suicide rates among adolescents in the 15-19 age group, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) Mortality Database, were examined. Data for this age group were available from 90 countries (in some cases areas) out of the 130 WHO member states. The mean suicide rate for this age group, based on data available for the latest year, was 7.4/100,000. Suicide rates were higher in males (10.5) than in females (4.1). This applies in almost all countries. The exceptions are China, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador and Sri Lanka, where the female suicide rate was higher than the male. In the 90 countries (areas) studied, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death among young males and the third for young females.  [Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414751/]

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The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people around the world die by suicide each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds. Up to 25 times as many again make a suicide attempt. The tragic ripple effect means that there are many, many more people who have been bereaved by suicide or have been close to someone who has tried to take his or her own life. And this is happening in spite of the fact that suicide is preventable. ‘Connect, communicate, care’ is the theme of the 2016 World Suicide Prevention Day. These three words are at the heart of suicide prevention.

As of 2009, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. annually, with 33,000 fatalities resulting from approximately 1.8 million attempts every year

Suicide is a serious concern for New Zealand communities. Every year, around 500 New Zealanders die by suicide, with many more attempting suicide. This has a tragic impact on the lives of many others – families, whānau, friends, and workmates, communities and society as a whole.

The media also have an important role to play in suicide prevention. Some types of reporting on suicide (e.g., prominent and/or explicit stories) have been shown to be associated with ‘spikes’ in suicide rates, but others (e.g., those that describe mastery of suicidal crises) have been shown to have a protective effect. Media recommendations have been developed by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization to assist journalists in getting stories right. Please see: goo.gl/4qVhUp

There are a number of helplines and websites around the world for suicide prevention.  Anyone concerned that anyone, of any age, might be considering suicide or who feels they may be in danger of committing suicide themselves should not hesitate to use these resources.

New Zealand :  Life Line: (Free call) 0800-543-354

Australia: 13 11 14  https://www.lifeline.org.au

Canada:  http://kidshelpphone.ca/ tel: 1-800-668-6868 or 1.877.741.0276.

UK:  116 123 (UK)     http://www.samaritans.org/

USA: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 http://www.crisistextline.org/textline/?gclid=CjwKEAjwgdS-BRDA7fT68f6s8zMSJADZwHmvuskGxz_Eq4Z7oeM2S4JXdUtU2h_D5jiNxSxrKXrY3RoCNazw_wcB

Japan: +81 (0) 3 5286 9090 (Tokyo)   or +81 (0) 6 4395 4343 (Osaka)

India:    24/7 on phone 1300 766 177 or mobile 0410 526 562

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Related Links…

http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/mental-health-and-addictions/working-prevent-suicide

https://www.iasp.info/wspd/

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A Mum Suffering From Postnatal Depression Writes Thank You Note To Person Who Brightened Her Day

A great story via “Kindness Blog” about how kindness made a difference to a Mum with Post Natal Depression.

Kindness Blog

A mother suffering from postnatal depression has written a thank you note to a café owner whose kind gesture made a difference to her a day.

The new mother from Australia, appealed to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) to share her note so she could get it seen but asked to remain anonymous.

The woman was staying in a mother-baby care unit for treatment for her depression when she had an encounter in a café that reminded her that..

…”the smallest kindness can make a difference”.

The full letter is below;

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The letter, which was uploaded on PANDA, has prompted other mothers suffering from postnatal depression to share their own stories.

“Cafés were my saviour when I had PND, a reason to get out and feel part of life and not just invisible at home,” wrote one mum.

“It was therapy to me and I now take my five-year-old…

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