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Postpartum Care in Somalia

As women, we share so much. From periods to pregnancy to menopause, there is commonality in these changes. Not only can we connect over these experiences, but we can also learn from one another about different methods of care. Ova recently had the opportunity to talk with Nawal Hirsi from the People's Center about her women's health experiences, and how her Muslim faith impacts her views on health. The format of this post is a little different--we've interspersed some audio files-- because we wanted you to be able to hear her words in her own voice instead of just reading them. 

 How has your faith shaped your views on women's health?

"My practice as a Muslim woman has definitely shaped my view on women’s health. It is part of my faith that self-care is important and it is the responsibility of a person to do right by their body. I am motivated to seek proper care when it is needed. I talk about this with the Somali women I work with.

Although my health revolves around my faith and beliefs, I also think that women all over the world share so much and have so many similarities. I feel comfortable talking to any woman from any race, from any culture and from any religion. I feel like I can talk about intimate health, reproductive health and sexual health because we identify the same in so many ways. It is about pushing back on the stigma that women need to be hush-hush about those topics. We need to be willing to talk about it and share with one another and come to common ground and support one another. Often times there are so many things created to divide us but we can unite and support one another in all aspects of health."

Nawal also shared with us how women are typically taken care of in Somalia postpartum. Listen to Nawal describe the Somali tradition of Ummul.

In Somalia, “40 days after giving birth we have something called Afartan bax…Your postpartum period has ended...It is a celebration and family members get together. It is basically a party…celebrating the mom."

 Hearing about this tradition made me more aware of the lack of support many women in the United States have after giving birth. How are we celebrating and honoring this transition to motherhood? How do we prevent isolation and ensure women have the help they need in the early days of motherhood? 

I also began to wonder about how immigration impacts Ummul. Does this tradition continue on after women move from Somalia to the US? Listen to the clip below to hear Nawal explain how this tradition continues after moving from Somalia to the US. 

 "A lot of people still try…we still do have that community connection…but it's a lot harder to do here in the US…because of the way life just is."

There is so much to learn from other cultures about caring for women. In the US, we have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to postpartum care for women. The tradition of Ummul is a beautiful example of how communities play a role in healthcare. I encourage us all to reflect on how we care for new moms in our communities.  

I asked Nawal how Somali women often say good bye to one another. I leave you with this--Nabadgelyo!

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