Ask an Expert: A Maternal Health Q + A with Latham Thomas

The doula and maternal health advocate on taking care of mothers

by Coterie Team

With so much anticipation leading up to pregnancy and childbirth, what happens to mothers postpartum can feel like an afterthought. New motherhood is intense, and for those who struggle with mental health, it can be that much harder.

According to the CDC, as many as 1 in 8 women who’ve recently given birth report postpartum depression symptoms. And that doesn’t even include mothers who are grieving a loss, or who feel plain burnt out.

So we asked Latham Thomas—mother, doula, and founder of global maternal health and doula training platform, Mama GlowOpens in a new tab.—about the importance of postpartum support:

Q. What exactly is a postpartum doula, and what can they do for a new mom?

A. A postpartum doula is a birth worker who helps facilitate the emotional and physical recovery and adjustment of the birthing person. This can be meal preparation or home organization; or providing evidence-based information on infant care, like feeding, soothing, and bonding.

Q. Giving birth and entering motherhood is such a huge transition. What kind of support do you think new mothers need to not only survive, but flourish, after such a life-changing experience?

A. New mothers need support that treats survival as a baseline. They need support that acknowledges the importance of cutting down on duties and responsibilities that make rest and recovery difficult. There can be a slew of intense emotions as mothers adjust, so emotional and social support are crucial—but these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Q. Why is mental health support through pregnancy and the postpartum period so important?

A. Having access to a licensed mental health counselor can be edifying. The hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy and childbirth can lead to feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and fatigue.

Some groups, like Black women and other women of color, are at increased risk because of their unique backgrounds, lived experience, and systemic oppression—it’s important that we raise awareness so we can take better care of our mothers.

Q. We’ve all seen the stats and stories that show how abysmal the U.S. is when it comes to maternal health. Can you share more about the work you do around this?

A. Data indicates that doula care has positive effects on birthing outcomes. Doulas fully immerse themselves in the lives of their clients and provide continuous non-judgemental support. We also help patients learn to advocate for themselves, which makes a huge difference in our current maternal health landscape, where 60% of maternal deaths are preventable.

At Mama GlowOpens in a new tab., we educate the next generation of birth workers, providing them with the training and support to serve expectant clients. We believe birth should be safe, dignified, and transcendent!

Q. What are some things people can do to support the new mothers in their lives?

A. Listening and lending a hand! It’s hard to figure out what we need when we’re overwhelmed, so offering continuous support and checking in frequently is key. New mothers need people to stay for the long haul; you won’t always have the answers, but the effort is what matters.