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Language Matters: Postpartum, Afterbirth or Postnatal?

Question Postpartum, Postnatal vs after birth?
Have you ever thought about the meaning of these three words? Did you use them as synonyms?

Every once in awhile, I am asked by mothers and Danish health providers about the "postpartum" word. What does it mean? Is not the same as after birth?

Here in Denmark, there is no translation equivalent for Postpartum or Postnatal. The word that it is used is efterfødsels that translates to "after birth". However, the terms differ on what and who they refer.

According to the Merriam - Webster Dictionary:

- Postpartum means the period following birth, referring to the Mother.

- Postnatal means the period immediately after birth, referring to the child.

- After birth refers to the placenta and fetal membranes that are expelled after delivery.

As you can read, the three words are different in definition. Many mothers feel neglect under medical care because all the attention focuses on the baby, the womb, the placenta, the breasts. All the attention is labeled as after birth and postnatal care. On the other hand, Postpartum is all about the Mother. This is why language matters.

There is another common misunderstanding about the word Postpartum. It is often related to Postpartum Depression. I have read comments such as "Yes, I had Postpartum, and it was awful," "Please be careful with Postpartum, is dangerous." And that is because in many cases, the word postpartum has a negative meaning strongly correlated with the Postpartum Depression, which is a very dangerous illness.

We need to return the power and positiveness to the word Postpartum by making ourselves, and others, understand its true meaning, and therefore its strength. We need partners and health care professionals to start using the word in a more natural and positive environment.

Postpartum is all about the Mother: her body, her mind, and her motherhood journey. It is about the struggles but also the joys of those first years with the baby. And more importantly, it always should be about how we can make this stage as pleasant as possible for her.


I am a Postpartum Doula, which means my entire focus is on the Mother's health, mainly mental health. My services are designed to provide support to the new parents, so they can feel empowered and confident during those first weeks with their baby.

If you are interested in learning more about how I can support during your Postpartum stage, check my website, or send me a message.

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