Why Are America’s Postpartum Practices So Rough on New Mothers?

“Some hundreds of years ago, Colonial Americans thought it fit for a woman who had just given birth to keep to her bed for three or four or more weeks.

For the length of the “lying in” period, as it was called, the new mother would rest, regain her strength, and bond with the baby as her womanly attendants kept up the household. Several of these ladies would be relatives, and others not; none were paid, and all expected to be similarly cared for following their own deliveries. Then, in the 19th century, the last free land was settled, and everyone retired to her own room. As Richard and Dorothy Wertz write in Lying-In: A History of Childbirth in America, “The era of social childbirth, with its volunteer woman-to-woman help, passed with the disappearance of the American frontier.” The “lie-in” wasn’t adapted or modified. And it certainly wasn’t replaced with anything.”

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Image: Jaime Razuri/AFP/Getty

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