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Postpartum Retreat Centers: a Recovery Haven for Long-Term Wellbeing

March 28, 2024
Ahma & Co Team
Image Credit: Kevin Liang
Image Credit: Kevin Liang

In the 1970s, new mothers in the United States could expect to stay in the hospital for an average of four days post-delivery. Today? 48 hours and a crisp, "See you in six weeks." The United States, relative to other wealthy countries, has one of the shortest hospital stay durations and one of the highest maternal mortality rates. Compared to mothers in its Asian and European counterparts, mothers in the U.S. are left with little to no support following childbirth. And it’s time to do better.

South Korea, a country that has long been celebrated for its thoughtful approach to postpartum care, exhibits rich traditional practices that emphasize maternal rest and recovery. Sanhujori is a belief and practice system in South Korea that is centralized around the mother’s recovery and wellbeing, as well as those of the newborn. For a period of two weeks to one month after birth, mothers are encouraged to follow a set of guidelines that aim to support recovery, promote maternal bonding, and decrease the chances of developing postpartum complications.

These rules focus on six key pillars, which scholar Yoo Eunkwang outlines as:

  1. Invigorating the body by the augmentation of heat and the avoidance of cold
  2. Resting without working
  3. Eating well
  4. Protecting the body from harmful strains
  5. Keeping clean
  6. Whole-hearted attention

Adhering to this system is often perceived as integral to mothers’ and newborns' long-term health. Conversely, not following Sanhujori is often perceived as the reason for experiencing illnesses or complications from birth.

In its premodern history, sanhujori occurred within the home, with family members taking the role of caretaker for the new mother and newborn. Family members, particularly grandmothers of the newborn, would cook for the new mothers and assist in caring for the newborn. However, as times changed, families became less interconnected than they once were. Consequently, there was a cultural shift in which sanhujori was sought in a professional context, through the help of midwives or extended stays at postpartum centers.

The first postpartum center in South Korea opened in 1996. And just two years later, over 161 centers had opened in South Korea. This momentum has continued, with the Korea Biomedical Review noting that more than six out of 10 moms currently utilize these postpartum centers. Designed as a transitional retreat between the hospital and the home for the first few weeks after birth, these centers provide 24/7 services to support mothers and newborns. Mothers can take time to recover from labor and delivery, through the help of midwives and additional professionals, such as massage therapists. Newborn care specialists lessen the burden by caring for the newborns as moms rest, while educating mothers as they begin to lay down the foundations they would carry beyond their stay at the postpartum center.

Interestingly, these postpartum centers deliver compelling, long-term results. According to a study within the National Library of Medicine, postpartum center participants scored significantly higher in maternal role confidence at 12 weeks postpartum than mothers who did not. Additionally, postpartum center participants scored higher in their breastfeeding success score than those who did not participate in the postpartum center. Overall, they also felt better equipped and rested to handle their transitions into motherhood.

Thankfully, mothers in the United States can now enjoy postpartum retreat services. Built by a Korean founder, Ahma & Co's postnatal retreat in Orange County, CA captures the spirit of sanhujori, designed to fulfill the unmet need in the U.S. for holistic, high-quality and comprehensive postpartum care. We know that mothers also need attention; and here, we offer an oasis in which mothers can experience the meaningful rest and recovery that they deserve and need, in order to feel their best self before returning home. Learn more about our first postnatal retreat and our services here.

Ahma & Co Team

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