The Role of Midwives in Preventing Postpartum Depression

It seems midwives are becoming an increasingly popular alternative for pregnant women looking to have a more personal experience during childbirth. Indeed, certified midwives can offer a huge amount of support during pregnancy, as they are trained to provide expectant mothers with an individualized approach on how to cope with everything from prenatal care to labor itself.

But did you know midwives can also provide support for mothers after childbirth? More specifically, studies have shown that women who have the support of a midwife after giving birth are significantly less likely to develop postpartum depression - a potentially serious and debilitating mood disorder.

How a Midwife Can Help

Having the help and support of others is a proven way to prevent postpartum depression. Midwives can add to that support by providing you with medical advice on how to properly care for yourself and your baby in those first few weeks at home.

In fact, in 2003 a study that was conducted out of the University of Birmingham suggested that women who received enhanced care from a midwife were 40 percent less likely to report feelings of depression. Enhanced care included midwives being given a standardized checklist for postpartum depression as well as regular visits for up to two months after childbirth.

Postpartum mood disorders are quite common, and range from the so-called "baby blues" to a much rarer condition called postpartum psychosis. While there is no known physiological cause of severe postpartum depression, research has suggested there may be cultural link. That is, postpartum depression has been shown to be less of an issue in societies in which new mothers are supported by family and friends, as well as their community.

What to Expect

If you are considering having a midwife as source of support postpartum, here is a general idea of what you can expect to take place:

  • After delivery, your midwife will normally stay with you for a period of 2 to 4 hours.
  • She will then visit 12 to 24 hours after birth. For women who give birth in a hospital and choose to return home, many midwives make their services available 24 hours a day during that first day home.
  • At minimum, 5 postpartum visits are arranged, with additional visits added if necessary. The visits take place on day 1, day 3, as well as between day 5 and day 7, and days 10 to 14.
  • The last visit will take place around six weeks after delivery

In terms of the services your midwife will be providing to you during this time, they generally include monitoring your baby's growth and development, and more importantly how well you are adjusting to motherhood. They also provide breastfeeding support.