Mongolia vs. USA: Delivery + Postpartum Care

READERS! I am finally writing the follow-up post to this entry on the blog where I talked about the differences in prenatal care here in the US versus what we experienced in Mongolia. I KNOW. Miracles do, indeed, happen!

I’ll be frank: I don’t think there’s that big of a difference between labor and delivery in Mongolia vs the US. I think the biggest difference was the amount of staff (more in the US, it seemed) and the language barrier (or lack thereof). I had access to all the same kinds of medical care, pain management, etc., and I didn’t feel pressured in either place to do anything that I didn’t want to do. So let’s skip the delivery section and move on to postpartum care.

The biggest difference in postpartum care was in the amount of time spent connecting with my ob/gyn after giving birth. In the US, unless you’re hemorrhaging, you have one follow-up appointment six weeks out from delivery. In Mongolia, I had multiple follow-up appointments. Postpartum depression and anxiety isn’t really on anyone’s radar in Mongolia though so I struggled through that alone after our first was born. Here in the US, both my doctor and our baby’s pediatrician have asked me on several occasions how my mood is because it’s [now] common practice to acknowledge the mental toll of having a new baby. Another big difference was being referred to pelvic floor physical therapy here in the US. I’m not sure if that’s even available in Mongolia. If it is, it was not offered when I was there.

A common practice in Mongolia after giving birth is to eat mutton soup (literally the first food given after delivery). Can I just say, that meal was the best meal ever? I’m not 100% keen on mutton to begin with, but that post-delivery soup is just *chef’s kiss*!

Some cultural differences in postpartum care are what I find really interesting. In Mongolia, new mothers need to stay covered and warm, including their heads, even in the middle of summer. They also aren’t supposed to go out and about with or without their baby for at least a month after delivery. In the US, some women go back to work by then. Maternity leave in Mongolia is influenced heavily by cultural views on motherhood, meaning that working mothers can start maternity leave two months before their due dates (paid), and continue to receive their salary for two months after delivery*. From then until the baby is two years old, mothers receive a small stipend from the government. Additionally, a woman’s job will be held for her for up to two years because Mongolians culturally recognize the value of having mothers be with their babies. (There is also paternity leave available in Mongolia, but I’m not as sure about the rules about it.)

I’m sure there are more Mongolian beliefs and practices concerning postnatal life of which I am unaware at this point. That’s the thing about culture: there are so many layers to it as well as subcultures that it’s pretty much impossible to know everything. This is just an overview with a few interesting tidbits!

*I stressed out my Mongolian colleagues because I wasn’t aware of just how seriously they took this four month period of time, seen as time to rest before delivery and recover afterwards. I worked until one month before my due date with our firstborn, and within a week of having him, I was up and visiting people. (In subsequent pregnancies, I leaned into the Mongolian custom of resting and not pushing my body harder than it needed.)

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