A new initiative announced by Mayor Michelle Wu’s office will offer free postpartum education and support to 32 women in the Boston area who have recently given birth or are expecting to give birth soon.
The 10-week virtual pilot program, announced Monday, will focus on supporting mothers, particularly Black and Brown women, through the pregnancy and postpartum period.
“The point of the program is to think about how we’re offering resources to women in Boston,” said Alexandra Valdez, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, who added the city would likely have more cohorts in the future. “As we know, it’s really hard during pregnancy and birth to obtain help, specifically for women of color.”
While expectant parents learn from friends, family, health care providers, and other sources how to care for a new baby, fewer are told how to care for themselves or what to expect emotionally in the first weeks and months after having a child.
Most new parents will experience “baby blues,” or feelings of sadness or anxiety in the first week or two after a baby is born. But at least one in five mothers experience longer-lasting mood disorders, such as postpartum depression or OCD, which can make it more difficult for them to care for themselves and bond with the baby.
Social support, research has shown, is an important part of the postpartum recovery process and can decrease the likelihood of postpartum depression and improve health outcomes for new mothers.
The new Boston program is an extended version of an eight-week postpartum education and support group launched last fall by Love Your Menses, a local menstrual education nonprofit that will facilitate the program. Dr. Ebere Azumah, an OB-GYN and the organization’s cofounder and president, said it’s easy for new mothers to feel embarrassed about their pregnancy and postpartum journeys, and having a peer support network can be an important part of parents feeling like they’re not alone.
Sessions, which will meet April 5 to June 5, will include weekly postpartum support groups and educational speakers offering advice on a range of relevant topics, from taking care of your mental health after birth to breastfeeding care. Groups will also have the chance to speak with postpartum doulas, mental health professionals, OB-GYNs, and childcare experts.
Valdez said she hopes the cohort can create a lasting support network for members to lean on even after the program ends.
”Being able to find community can be so hard, especially in Boston and as women of color,” she said. “We’re hoping those in the cohort feel like they have a sense of family support.”
A virtual information session will be held Wednesday for interested participants to learn more about the program and how to apply. Individuals can submit online applications to be considered for the program until March 29.
The selection team will ensure the cohort is diverse and works “to close gaps for mothers of color who statistically face staggering birthing gaps,” according to Ayanna Polk, director of community engagement and communications for Wu. To ensure that language is not a barrier, the application is available in 11 languages, including Spanish, Somali, and Haitian Creole, and translation services are available upon request.
Experts said educational resources and classes for parents generally focus on pregnancy and childcare, but it’s important to teach women about the postpartum period.
“You’re just not going to know what questions to ask, and you’re not going to know what you don’t know when you’re pregnant, especially for your first,” said Caroline Allen, founder of the Mom Connection, a Swampscott organization offering support groups and educational resources for mothers. “It’s essential for moms to have more options and safe spaces to get support and resources as well as community and connection.”
For help with postpartum mood disorders, contact Postpartum Support International at www.postpartum.net or call or text 800-944-4773. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call 988 or go to https://988lifeline.org/ to chat online.
Zeina Mohammed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @_ZeinaMohammed.