Ideas on Safe Motherhood
#two in a series on “Safe Motherhood Week”.
The assignment I got was to contribute to this EU campaign on this important task by Irish writer and editor Danielle Barron. The campaign runs every first week of October to create awareness for healthy pregnancies and safe motherhood.
Some collected experience through my profession as a health visitor
I would like to focus on preventing loneliness and postpartum depression.
In Denmark Health Visitors organized from the municipality visit families with newborn babies and follow-up on both mothers’ and babies’ well-being the first years of their lives. We are educated as nurses and take another education on health and children’s development before we can use the “Health Visitor” title. See more here a postcard from Denmark
The last years of my job we became more aware of finding mothers suffering from Post Partum Depression. When the baby was eight weeks old we let the mother take a test to find those who maybe had this tendency. It was not difficult to talk about the test early in the visits to prepare both parents of this. About one in ten mothers get this depression in some form.
I would offer much more visits than we normally give just to check up on the mother. Sometimes that would be enough to help her. Mothers with grave and persisting anxiety would need more professional help and I would refer her to her medical doctor.
I would involve her husband to be more engaged in the child’s emotional development and help the family to ask for practical assistance from their family or friends.
Fathers can also get this postpartum depression. The symptoms vary from the women’s.
I wrote about it a post in Danish. It can be google translated should anybody be interested.
When asked about what is a good parent both claim:
To be a good parent is to meet the needs of the child and to be attentive to them
While getting treatment for the postpartum depression it is important to get help to attachment to the baby. Otherwise, both parts will suffer the rest of their lives.
Here my interview with a young woman whose mother suffered from this condition.
In Denmark, we have many months of maternity leave and fathers have some weeks too and the parents can share a certain amount of weeks too if they wish. It’s very privileged and good for most parents. For some, it can be a time of loneliness.
Taken from the post “A Postcard from Denmark”:
Most are allowed to stop working four weeks before the birth and many can stop eight weeks before. It depends on the agreement at that workplace. The leave is paid.
After the birth, the mother has 14 weeks of leave and the father has two weeks in the same period. After the 14 weeks, they have 32 weeks where they can choose who is going to have the leave the father or the mother. You get paid, but the tariff is different from a workplace to workplace.
From the late 1980’s I engaged in helping mothers to enter into so-called “Mothers’ Groups”. We as Health Visitors would gather those who had new-born babies at a certain month and at a certain district and introduce them to each other mostly in their homes.
Some became friends for many years and their children have grown up together. It’s a lovely and easy task when the families are similar in social status but can be difficult when they are too different.
The groups are also popular today and the Health Visitors are still present at the first meeting. But ever so often mothers find each other via Facebook and meet for socialising whereas professional groups are formed more to teach on how to treat and understand babies and to prevent them being handled too hard.
Mothers don’t have the energy to visit someone with lots of problems or someone who is living in a dirty and untidy home and maybe the parents were smoking indoors. The other mothers don’t want to mention anything about it so they just come once and the group dissolves. I found it very difficult when these situations popped up as I heard about the problems from both sides.
Often we had special groups or therapy to families with social problems. In that way, we just offered something else than the normal “Mothers’ Groups”. These groups were not always totally optional for the invited families to attend to.
Yesterday I had the big joy of meeting one of “my mothers” at a Half Marathon race. We had both finished and suddenly we saw each other. She said :
You were my Health Visitor! I remember your smile and your voice!
I remembered her too and her prematurely born twins, what months and year they were born. In the fall of 1999, I had at least five premature babies and a group was made. The mothers stuck together and I met with them as often as I could and during the time. I made video films of the babies for them to have later.
In a few days, my own story on this subject will appear in the WordPress reader.