The United States lacks a culture of postpartum care. Our social and medical traditions follow an “infant first after birth” approach, meaning the attention and nurturing offered to a woman during pregnancy are quickly transferred to her new baby after birth. As a result, new families are left to navigate the vulnerable postpartum period alone (see a list of challenges below).
In other parts of the world, and in past eras, the postpartum period is and was considered a special time that warranted a “mother first after birth” approach. This outlook acknowledges medically, and culturally, the needs of women after childbirth: to heal; bond with the baby; learn infant care; and emotionally transition into motherhood. And of course, these needs are met in the context of community.
Postpartum Challenges in the US
The cultural myth of the "Super Mom" sets unrealistic expectations for mothers. This unattainable ideal contributes to an unpreparedness for the realities of motherhood, maternal stress, depression, and an environment of judgement among women.
Poor Maternal Mental Health
The United States has a high rate of maternal mood disorders. Up to 1 in 4 mothers suffers from postpartum depression (PPD), or about 1.3 million annually.
Inadequate Medical Care
Postpartum health care in the U.S. typically consists of a one to two day hospital stay and a follow-up visit with a provider six weeks later. By the time a provider sees a new mother, they have missed the critical time when the onset of postpartum depression and health complications are most likely to occur and may have been prevented.
Lack of Family-Friendly Policies
The United States is one of only four countries in the world without guaranteed paid maternity leave. Mothers are 44% less likely to be hired than equally qualified women without children. Women without children make 90 cents to a man's dollar, mothers make 73 cents, and single mothers make 60 cents to a man's dollar.
Many parents are increasingly isolated from neighbors, friends, and extended family. This is especially true in the transient community of Champaign County.