Why Postnatal Recovery Matters

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Sophie Messager
2020 | paperback | 160pp | 172x111mm
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Sophie Messager


During pregnancy the focus of antenatal preparation is the birth itself, and the importance of the postnatal period is often overlooked. Yet postnatal recovery (or a lack of it) can have consequences for the long-term health and wellbeing of both mother and baby.

In Why Postnatal Recovery Matters Sophie Messager draws on her experience as a scientist and doula to show that thinking ahead to after the birth can get new families off to the best possible start.

Press reviews and endorsements

Reading the two quotes that open this book got me hooked, announcing a rather more holistic approach than the recent books that have proliferated on the postpartum. I simply could not stop reading this passionate, well-informed, urgent plea for changing our damaging culture of postpartum care all the way through to the acknowledgements. Sophie Messager is as authentic as she is authoritative on this topic. She skilfully interweaves stories of mothers whom she has supported, colleagues’ anecdotes and her own experience to support her clear and irrefutable argument: new mothers need rest, food, social support and bodywork. They need help, at a time when they are tired, vulnerable and facing our insane current cultural norms. Postnatal support for mothers is not the stuff of exotic traditions. It was available in England and Scotland in living memory. It is still a major cultural practice in many parts of the world. In Asia, ‘doing the month’ is institutionalised as part of the reproductive process. Yet each new mother needs to find her own formula with a ‘postnatal recovery plan’ suited to her personal circumstances. Based on both her extensive research and her personal experience as a Doula, Sophie proposes sensible resources that are pragmatic and accessible. For parents to be and new parents, this book is like a ‘buffet’, where they can pick and choose useful suggestions, all the way to recipes such as Sophie’s now famous ‘groaning’ cake or the postnatal chicken soup adapted from her husband’s Chinese cuisine. As a mother and an anthropologist working in this field, I resonate with many if not all the feelings expressed by the new mothers in this book. Their truth needs to be heard. This book is also a wakeup call for all professionals, policy makers and influencers. Perhaps even more than improving birth experiences, changing the culture of postnatal care (the ‘Cinderella’ of our global maternity services) is a top social priority. Sophie Messager’s genuine voice compels readers’ compassion not only as a scientist turned Doula but also as an inspiring storyteller. After reading this book, no one will turn up to visit a new family with a cuddly toy and expect tea to be served. Rather, they will bring a nutritious cake or casserole and perhaps offer a postnatal massage for the new mother. Françoise Barbira Freedman, Medical Anthropologist and University of Cambridge Founder of Birthlight

"I love this book. I have facilitated postnatal groups for many years, so I am acutely aware of the huge hole in support and information for those starting their lives as mothers. This book goes a long way towards filling that hole. Sophie is a scientist turned doula, so is beautifully qualified to offer practical, evidence-based information with compassion and empathy. She gives us pointers to things we should all know, but have somehow lost in our rushed and internet-obsessed world. Based on her four pillars of postnatal recovery - rest, nutrition, social support and bodywork - she gently guides us through practical steps to support an optimal postnatal recovery. Packed with common sense and wisdom, with enjoyable personal stories and references and resources second to none, this book has something for everyone who is pregnant or has just had a baby. I not only recommend it, I would go so far as to say I think it is essential reading." Becky Reed, Midwife and Postnatal Group Facilitator

"This book is bursting with common sense. It addresses an area of childbirth that has been desperately neglected. Sadly the postnatal period has been the brunt of modern cost cutting, leaving new mothers with very little in the way of support. Sophie captures the need for reestablishing some of the old traditions and customs. She introduces customs from around the world, emphasising the importance societies everywhere put on this special time. Sophie uses her “four pillars of postnatal recovery” to illustrate how vital postnatal recovery is to mother, baby and family. In a world where families are often living miles apart and new mothers do not have a close support network, where mothers are expected to bounce back to pre pregnancy “normal” and the pace of life is fast and constantly interrupted by technology, there is an enormous need for a book like this. Sophie offers sensible, realistic advice in an easy to read amusing book. I recommend it highly!" Siobhan Taylor, Midwife and Community Postnatal Supporter

"By sharing the experiences and concerns of modern women during their postnatal journeys, Sophie unveils for us the wisdom of postpartum care across the globe and echoes the voices of traditional midwifery throughout time.

Thorough research, easy to follow advice and lots of useful resources make this book a must read!

Not only for mothers to be, but for all of those who understand that perinatal health is a key element to help our communities thrive." Laura Leongomez, Holistic Voice Therapist and Doula

"As an anthropologist, I found this book fascinating. As a pregnant woman, I found it essential. It completely changed how I thought about and approached the end of my pregnancy and planning for the oft-neglected time after birth. Sophie draws on cross-cultural wisdom and experience, as well as the scientific literature, to articulate how the exhausted, neglected, overwhelmed stereotype of new motherhood we have in our society isn’t an unavoidable universal but a relatively recent cultural choice. And, crucially, a choice we can be empowered to un-make with some care, planning, and support." Eleanor Fleming, Postgraduate Researcher, Department of Anthropology, Durham University

"Sophie’s book is a powerful call to action and essential reading not just for those who are pregnant or have had children – but for all of us. At some point in our lives we will come into contact with a loved one who is expecting or has recently had a child and Sophie’s book reminds us of an age-old universal wisdom about caring for the mother.  The book is a wonderful resource including poignant personal stories. 

My hope is that the book will have a ripple effect. Caring for mothers during this precious period after birth is an avenue not just to look after two individuals (baby and mother) but a step towards creating better societies." Dr Johanna Riha, Mother and Consultant Epidemiologist


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1 Review

  • 5
    Such an important topic!

    Posted by Zoë on 3rd Sep 2020

    This is a wonderful book that will reshape the way people view the period after giving birth. Society is broken, and this gives me hope that things can change when we demand better, things will change. Women need to start reclaiming this back. The book has practical steps at how you can build a postnatal plan.

    There is too much focus on the birth of the baby will little thought of the mother and the time after. I remember getting home with my first born and looking at my partner and saying now what?!
    I wish I had this book then 12yrs ago.
    As someone who works with parents to be I encourage them to think about this time and what they want it to look like, to nurture themselves, who will help, what will they do, what about sleep?! Where will you sleep where will baby sleep?
    Much of this depends on having realistic expectations of this period, and of your infant.
    It is why I love the entire why range, evidence based, real life examples, pick-up-able size not too in depth that you can’t take things on board.
    Thank you Sophie for raising this up!