Want A Luxury Postnatal Experience? The U.S. Now Has “Retreats” For New Moms Leaving The Hospital

The postnatal transition is one of the most grueling and exhausting periods a woman can experience in her life.

By Gwen Farrell4 min read
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Shutterstock/Saulich Elena

Some of us are lucky to have our village of friends and family to help support us through this transition. But others aren’t, and that loss can have a severe impact both on mental and physical health.

The postpartum period should be a season of intense focus and rest for the mom as she fosters her connection with her child. But more often than not, it’s filled with anxiety, apprehension, anger, frustration, and an unhealthy dose of sleep deprivation.

But what if you could have all your postpartum needs met in one place? Following traditions that first originated in Asia, luxury postnatal experiences are now popping up all over the U.S. These “retreats" for new moms leaving the hospital emphasize recovery and bonding – and they’re not without a hefty price tag – but their newfound popularity could mean our cultural attitude toward birth and delivery is evolving.

The Perils of the Fourth Trimester

Also known as the fourth trimester, the health of the postpartum period is critical for a mom’s mental and physical recovery following her pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Having both the mother's and her baby’s postpartum needs met has been linked to more positive outcomes for moms, including more confidence in breastfeeding and a decreased likelihood of developing postpartum depression.

Support during the fourth trimester also equips a mom more adequately to meet the needs of her newborn, which is often the biggest learning curve for her when she returns home after giving birth. While home births may be rising in popularity for a number of reasons, the majority of women will continue to labor and deliver their babies in a hospital. These hospitals might send new parents home with plenty of diapers and directions about wake windows and feeding times, but the social aspect is what’s really crucial to a mother’s health during her recovery.

Postpartum care as we know it in this country is severely lacking. You might get a phone call from your doctor’s office or a six-week checkup or even see a lactation consultant, but that’s about it. We expect a mother to fully recover from the mental load of her hormones fluctuating wildly, back to pre-pregnancy levels in a short span of time, in addition to recovering from what could be an extremely traumatic birth process. And in most cases, we also expect them to be back at work, with their newborn being cared for by someone else, in a matter of weeks

For the first year of their child’s life, we expect them to work as if they don’t have kids and to parent as if they don’t have jobs. We think we can prepare for all the challenges, both expected and unexpected, that the birth and the postpartum periods throw at us – but the truth is, no matter how much we prepare, we’ll probably be poorly equipped to undergo what we experience. On top of that, the sweet and fleeting tender days of our baby’s early life are flying by – all while we’re frustrated with feeding and sleeping schedules, feeling miserable physically, and overall, disconnected from this new person who’s become a mother.

The Origins of Postnatal Retreats

In terms of postpartum care, other parts of the world are far ahead of the West. Specifically in Asia, the postpartum period is a sacred time of rest and relaxation for the new mother, and their cultural practices date back centuries.

In China, mothers enter a season called “confinement,” which lasts anywhere from a month to six weeks. During this period, mothers return home to recover from birth and are cared for by a postpartum doula, also known as a confinement nanny. This doula prepares meals for the mother, helps them bathe and maintain good hygiene, consults on feeding practices, offers healing massages, and generally maintains orderliness in the home so all of the mother’s attention can be on her child. 

One small-scale study from 2019 conducted in the Hunan Province in China found that mothers who adhered to strict regimens of housework and restricted themselves socially were found to have symptoms of postpartum depression, compared to mothers who adhered strictly to the rules of the confinement period, revealing a correlation between skipping the confinement period and developing PPD.

This practice is somewhat similar to sanhujoriwons, or postpartum recovery centers found in Korea. These centers, unlike the Chinese practice of confinement, are more similar to staying in a hotel, only one that’s geared toward postpartum recovery. At sanhujoriwons, mothers engage in light exercise and stretching routines, and receive snacks and meals specially curated for their postpartum needs. There are also dedicated baby-rooms monitored by staff if a mother needs to catch up on sleep or another activity, but it’s recommended that mom and baby share a room for the development of their bond.

These postnatal hotels, modeled after sanhujoriwons, are now opening all over the U.S., specifically in larger affluent cities like San Francisco and New York City. Boram Postnatal Center, considered the first such service in the U.S. and located in New York, is specifically modeled on Korean postpartum practices, and provides around-the-clock, individualized care for mothers, ranging from zero to six weeks postpartum. The center gives moms counseling services, educational classes including lactation consultation, nutritious meals, a lounge to meet other moms, and a baby nursery that’s open 24 hours a day. 

There’s also The Village Postnatal Retreat Center, located at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, and Ahma & Co., a waitlist-only postnatal retreat that provides luxury, hotel-like amenities all geared toward the postpartum healing process.

Breaking Down the Pros and Cons

Having a dedicated service to tend to your every need as you learn to bond with your child is something every mom deserves, especially if it mitigates the chances of developing postpartum depression, which one in seven women will suffer from.

Making the most of your early days as a mom – which so often feels impossible due to the haze of hormones and the ups and downs of parenthood – can be significant in your postpartum journey, even if that means staying in bed, resting, and learning how to breastfeed.

These kinds of retreats could also be life-changing for parents who lack the valuable support of family and other loved ones, if only because of their geographic location. One potential drawback is that, currently, these centers are only located in California and New York, though as their popularity spreads, that could change.

Another disadvantage is the cost. While postpartum care and thorough, healthy recovery should be available to every mom, it’s important to remember that these retreats are luxury experiences, even located at five-star hotels like the Boram Postnatal Center.

While bloggers and influencers can easily exchange the cost of their stay for a comprehensive review of the center, these retreats, more often than not, have to be covered out-of-pocket, and that’s on top of a hospital stay and delivery. At Boram, a one-week stay costs $5,900, and a three-night minimum stay at The Village in San Francisco runs $950 per night. Boram’s marketing director, Allison Bader, says the center is working to get some services covered by insurance, but even then, the experience will likely remain luxury-only.

While the coverage of these retreats is minimal so far, it’s also difficult to find out how husbands and fathers are included in their services. While the mother’s postpartum recovery should be the top priority, it’s also imperative that the dad gets to bond with his child. It’s unclear if these centers are solely catered toward mothers, or if both parents can participate in the classes and amenities offered by the retreats. 

Overall, these centers represent a crucial shift in the mindset surrounding pregnancy, childbirth, and the fourth trimester. We so often focus on pregnancy and delivery without emphasizing the significance of the postpartum period, when in reality, it’s key to both mom’s and baby’s recovery. These retreats are definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to the future of women’s postpartum health, but it’s also critical to note that there’s still a business aspect to them and that business won’t be affordable to all moms.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re a first-time mom or even a fifth-time mom, you owe it to both yourself and your baby to prioritize your postpartum health. If that looks like a postnatal retreat, then take advantage of every service that’s offered to you, but even if that’s not in the cards for you, ensure that everything you undertake in your fourth trimester is geared toward your healing and recovery.

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