The Role of Postpartum Doulas in Mental Health Support

March 28, 2024

Simone Snead, MPH, CLC serves as Program Manager for the Mom and Baby Action Network at March of Dimes.  She received her MPH from University of Pennsylvania and her Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Health from Temple University. Simone's work has focused on the decreasing rates of both maternal and infant morbidity & mortality and the impact those tragedies have on African American women in the United States. Simone is also a Certified Lactation Counselor and both a Birth and Postpartum Doula, and has assisted with 30+ births. 

Bringing a child into the world is both beautiful and life changing. Amidst the joy of becoming a parent, many also experience challenges with mental health in the postpartum period. Postpartum mental health refers to the psychological well-being of a birthing parent following childbirth. Mental health can be a particularly vulnerable time in the postpartum period due to hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, physical recovery from childbirth, and the challenges adjusting to parenthood. Supporting mental health during this time period is essential for both parents and babies. Postpartum doulas are trained professionals who provide physical, emotional, and informational support to families during the postpartum period. One of their primary focuses is to support maternal mental health.

Postpartum doulas serve as vital connectors between families and the resources available in their communities. Through their extensive networks and knowledge of local services, postpartum doulas guide families to essential resources that are tailored to their needs. Whether it’s recommending lactation professionals for breastfeeding support, connecting families with mental health professionals, or facilitating parent support groups, postpartum doulas ensure that families are equipped with the tools needed to thrive during the postpartum period and beyond. Postpartum mental health issues can have significant implications for the parent and family if left untreated. It’s essential for families to be aware of signs and symptoms of postpartum mental health disorders and to seek help from trained professionals if they are experiencing difficulties. Doulas often bridge the gap between families and community resources and play an important role in fostering resilience, empowerment, and well-being among parents and their babies.

Postpartum doulas empower families by providing them with personalized support and guidance tailored to their individual needs and preferences. Doulas help families build confidence in their parenting abilities and trust their instincts. By fostering a nonjudgmental environment, postpartum doulas empower families to prioritize their own well-being and advocate for themselves and their families during the postpartum period.

Three key areas that postpartum doulas assist with mental health support:

  1. Active listening and emotional support: Doulas provide a compassionate and nonjudgmental space for families to express their emotions and concerns about the birthing process, parenthood, and mental health. Through active listening and empathetic support, postpartum doulas offer reassurance during challenging times, helping to alleviate feelings of isolation and anxiety.
  2. Education and guidance: Postpartum doulas offer families education and guidance on postpartum mental health, including common early warning signs for maternal mental health disorders. By equipping families with knowledge and awareness, doulas empower them to recognize and address mental health challenges effectively.
  3. Resource referral and coordination: Navigating community resources can be very daunting and complicated for many families. Postpartum doulas assist families in assessing appropriate mental health resources and professionals by providing referrals to community programs, therapists, support groups, and counselors. Overall, postpartum doulas ensure that their families receive the support and care that they need to prioritize their mental wellness after childbirth.