While strides have been made in terms of postpartum health awareness and resources for mothers-to-be, more can be done to address the complex and inherently challenging period after childbirth—especially in the U.S. A new online platform, Anya, is the latest company to offer postpartum support for new mothers through a modern lens, combining deeply researched educational content and a range of subscription-based products tailored to the distinct stages of postpartum recovery.
The idea for Anya was first sparked by cofounder and CEO Jane Baecher’s own postpartum experience. Like many mothers, Baecher found herself blindsided by the symptoms she experienced after giving birth, including radical body changes, sleep deprivation, painful sex, hair shedding, and the emotional highs and lows caused by hormonal shifts. “I was suddenly this broken vessel that was leaking from every part of my body, needed to heal, and also feed a human,” explains Baecher. “For me, it was both the physical recovery and also what came after—the hormonal shifts, my new identity, my breasts leaking, my relationships changing, feeling exhausted and depleted for months on end—it was all a surprise.” In researching her way through the experience, she became aware of the gaps in postpartum support in the U.S. versus other countries, spurred by both health care policies and cultural differences. The fact is that other countries, such as China with its postpartum-care centers, France with its pelvic-floor-therapy coverage, and Sweden with its maternity and paternity leave policies, are prioritising women’s health needs during the postpartum period and, in turn, helping them “enter this stage of life feeling prepared and supported,” stresses Baecher.
In learning about different, more beneficial approaches to the postpartum period, Baecher found that she was having to rely mainly on information, namely traditional recipes and rituals, from other countries. “I was determined to create an easier way for women to take care of themselves; to get the benefits I was seeing and, just as importantly, to help women feel prepared and know what to expect, so it wouldn’t be so scary and women wouldn’t feel so alone,” she explains.
In hopes of launching a business that improved the quality of life for women in the postpartum period, Baecher looked to her longtime friend Ariana Saunders, whom she’d met at Cornell University and worked with at Bloomingdale’s early in her career. After reading studies on postpartum maternal health care in the U.S., it became clear to them that women were lacking knowledge about postpartum health and desiring information from health care professionals versus their friends and family, and that clinicians also believed maternal health education was insufficient. With an emphasis on data-driven strategy, Saunders helped Baecher dig deeper and learn more about the postpartum experiences of other American women, speaking to more than 2,000 individuals about the physical, mental, and emotional struggles of new motherhood and using the survey’s findings to inform a transformation of the postpartum experience. From there, Anya was born.
Marrying Eastern and Western philosophies with support from a panel of 30-plus medical doctors and holistic practitioners including ob-gyns, lactation consultants, pelvic floor specialists, and herbalists, Anya, at its core, was created to help new mothers design an all-encompassing postpartum plan. “Women’s experiences after birth are not singular, and neither should be their approach to their health,” explains Saunders. “We believe that there is so much to be gained by combining these different schools of thought to meet the varying experiences of women. Giving women multiple perspectives and options empowers them so that they can make their own choices for themselves and take a proactive approach to their own health and recovery.”
Currently pregnant with her first child, Freida Pinto is Anya’s chief impact officer. Pinto will be using her knowledge, passion, and platform to help amplify Anya’s mission through brand strategy and product development. Pinto notes that her Indian roots have greatly shaped her perspective and approach to motherhood in all stages, but especially postpartum. “In my culture, the postpartum period is a very sacred time, where the mother is supported and taken care of no matter what; her job is to care for her baby and rest, while the family’s job is to take care of the mother and the household,” explains Pinto. When Pinto’s mother was pregnant with her firstborn, Pinto’s sister, Sharon, it “didn’t take a second thought” for her grandaunt to move her mother into her home so that she had time to heal and rest. “It’s not quite like that here [in the U.S.], a culture where mothers are expected to handle this experience blindly, quietly, and quickly—sometimes going back to work only six weeks after they give birth.”
Anya offers an ever-evolving monthly subscription service of products that support a new mother’s needs as they change throughout the postpartum period, including birth recovery, post-nursing care, and hair loss. “Month one is typically when a woman’s body is experiencing physical recovery, major hormonal shifts, rebuilding blood volume, and the start of lactation,” explains Baecher. “In month two, compounded sleep loss is setting in, impacting women both physically and mentally, and in month three, women who will experience shedding begin to lose their hair. In months four to five, many women are back to work and dealing with looking for an extra way to boost energy levels and maintain milk supply.” Anya’s eight-product range accounts for all of these nuanced phases and includes recovery and energising tonics, soothing and lactation teas, postnatal supplements, and a nipple balm, body butter, and hair-growth-boosting scalp serum all powered by clean, gentle, and efficacious ingredients. After completing a brief quiz, women are recommended a trio of products per month and swap them in and out as desired. “The products are tailored to their needs and are completely flexible so that women can change the products in each box based on their preferences,” explains Saunders.
Then there’s the Partum Post, a free fact-checked, doctor-reviewed guide to helping mothers prepare and recover from the postpartum period. Its subjects were influenced by the FAQs the Anya staff heard from women firsthand, as well as the questions practitioners say they’re asked most. Topics include vagina recovery, breastfeeding challenges, postpartum depression, nutrient depletion, sex after childbirth, and new-mom stress and anxiety. “We’re determined to end the endless Google searches where women can’t be sure to trust the information they’re getting,” says Saunders. “Our resource offers a well-rounded and objective viewpoint on all things postpartum. We’re arming women with knowledge so they can make their own decisions about what is right for them. There is no topic that we will shy away from.”
Harnessing her celebrity voice and hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and Twitter, Pinto has her sights set on fighting the harmful taboos that plague many mothers during the postpartum months. “It’s equally my priority to help change mindsets on some of the unfortunate pressures society knowingly or unknowingly puts on new mothers, like the pressure to ‘bounce back’ for example, as if pregnancy and postpartum is akin to an inanimate rubberband,” she explains. Pinto also realizes that some mothers will have a harder time even accessing the resources that Anya offers. She’s been working on the nonprofit arm of the company, as well as furthering their larger goal of making Anya accessible to all women as it grows.
“As women, we’re conditioned to brush things off or go through issues blindly assuming ‘that’s just how it is,’” says Pinto. “I know some of the reasons why this has become normalised, but let’s just say…it’s not normal and it’s not okay. There is much work that has to be done to change this archaic and damaging narrative forced on women, and I feel confident that we have what it takes to help create that paradigm shift.”