The number one complication from childbirth in all countries is Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD),” says Valerie Lynn, author of The Mommy Plan and international country coordinator of postnatal care and recovery for PSI (Postpartum Support International), which is in 138 countries. Originally from the US, Valerie lived in Malaysia for 17 years and her journey started when she re-balanced herself from postpartum anxiety and OCD after the birth of her own child by turning to Malay postnatal practices.

Having discovered that Malaysia has the lowest recorded incidence of postpartum depression in the world (3%), she then conducted in-depth research about the practice’s effectiveness, via the Malaysian Ministry of Health, in hospitals and in the field. She believes that insights from her research in Malaysia could have great relevance in the UAE: “Research indicates there is a rise of PMAD in the UAE now reaching 22%, with 1 in 5 women suffering from postnatal depression,” she says. “Many women have such severe postnatal depression that they need hospitalisation, but as hospitals in the UAE do not have mother and baby units, they can be separated from their infants.” Introducing postpartum care along the lines of the Malaysian tradition, as adapted in The Mommy Plan, could help ward against postnatal depression in the UAE, Valerie believes.

Malaysia’s ‘Malay Pantang’ practice is built on core principles which are largely followed by members of all the main ethnic backgrounds in Malaysia. The ancient routine consists of regular massage, binding, hot compresses and a special diet during the first six weeks postpartum.

“After-birth recovery practices aid a mother’s body to first heal and then recuperate and recover; they are a preventative measure against PMAD as the recovery is actively managed and not passively gone through, as it is by so many new mothers who don’t have the guidance or support. All mothers need to be provided with, and follow, fundamental post-baby recovery guidelines to help themselves heal, thus aiding in a balanced hormonal recovery.” 

Read more Postnatal depression in UAE: what you need to know and how to seek help

The proof: Can massage really ward off postnatal depression?                

In spite of the longstanding history of traditional rituals being practiced on postpartum women, their impact and safety profile are still not fully understood, aside from anecdotal evidence like Alisha’s. A 2015 Ministry of Health Malaysia report notes that a cross-sectional study, which looked at the effectiveness of the technical elements of the tradition, found that:

“Deep tissue massage can lead to an increase in serotonin and a decrease in cortisol, thereby reducing the risk of depression. A link was found between postnatal massage and protection against PND. The studies found that this postnatal massage seemed to have potential effect in reducing anxiety and stress level, improving quality of sleep and mental status among postnatal mothers.” However, there were no statistically significant links found between PND and hot compresses or body binding, but this may be largely due to the lack of research. For more information, see Moh.gov.my 

Read more New mums: Put down the parenting books, they’re making you depressed

3 other traditional postpartum treatments on offer in Dubai

Rebozo ‘Closing the Bones’ ceremony with Baby Belly Mom
Eleonora Fornelli, known as ‘The Hugging Doula’, is offering the traditional Mexican ritual of bone closing, involving wrapping and massaging the body.
Dh400, 1hr, eleonora@bellybabymom.com

Moroccan Postpartum Doula services with LayLab
Layla from LayLab offers 2-2.5 hour Traditional Postpartum Doula sessions every Saturday, including a traditional Moroccan hamam with herbs and spices, a Closing the Bones ceremony, a Closing massage, and Belly Binding. This can be had from 7 days after a vaginal birth and 40 days after C-section.
Dh950 for 2.5 hours, see: Laylab.co.uk/tpd/

Postnatal mother and baby packages with Cucciku
Cucciku will send a massage therapist to your own home to give you Malay, Chinese and Ayurvedic Postnatal Treatments, including postnatal massages to decrease swelling and encourage healing. They can also do baby massage.
Postnatal massage for both mum (45 mins) and baby (30 mins) can be bought as a trial for Dh250, info@cucciku.com 055-8370946 

Read more on this story here: 

The Mummy-Sitters: The women using ancient practices to care for new mothers