I had a wide range of individuals to help me through a rough first trimester.
I had a friend just a weeks weeks ahead of me in her pregnancy, who became my go-to person when it came to seeing how things would shift for me in the weeks to come.
I had an acupuncturist and Ayurvedic specialist who gladly shared what they knew
I saw a chiropractor regularly.
I had an awesome midwife who I texted back and forth with on a regular basis.
I knew I wanted this kind of support to continue.
Not just throughout pregnancy, but into the fourth trimester.
Hell, why not even into the first year?
If there’s one thing working in mental health has taught me over the years, it’s that isolation can be dangerous.
Social support makes a huge difference, as does professional support.
If you live in a country where there is little support available for mothers postpartum (cough cough US) then I highly recommend putting together a list of resources in your area.
Even if it seems like overkill to look up a bunch of professionals you think you may never call long before you are due, I encourage you to do it anyway!
Too much support never hurt anyone!
Not enough support did.
I’d rather have too much than too little – what about you?
Here’s my list of top postpartum pros you will want to have on your rollodex (or saved on your phone) for the first days, weeks, or months after birth.
These are becoming more and more common. Their role is to support parents in the early days and weeks after birth. Postpartum doulas have training that ranges from education (around breastfeeding, baby care, etc) to emotional support for the entire family. Some postpartum doulas also offer assistance with basic house-work such as cooking and cleaning. Note: not all birth doulas are trained as postpartum doulas and vice versa, make sure you check credentials if you are looking for someone who has postpartum expertise! Check here for further information on how to find a PP doula near you.
This is a professional who is certified to support new families in breastfeeding. They are typically found in clinical settings (hospitals, pediatrician offices, public health centers), although some are also in private practice. They play a critical roles in helping address challenges that arise for breastfeeding mothers. If you are having a facility-based birth (hospital or birth center) and would like some support, you can ask if they have a lactation consultant on staff. Click here for further information on how to find an LC near you.
Maternal Mental Health Professional
This includes licensed clinical social workers, psychologists, counselors, and other types of licensed therapists. I want to emphasize: not all mental health professionals are trained in perinatal and maternal mental health. You want to find someone who specializes in this! You can check out their website or call and ask if they are trained and experienced in perinatal mood disorders, the transition to motherhood, postpartum depression, etc. For a great example of what to look for, check out clinical psychologist Dr. Jessica Zucker’s website for her private practice.
*You can also bring this topic up in a visit with your provider or your child’s provider, here’s a post on how to approach your provider an get the care you deserve.
Your spine, pelvis and entire nervous system have a lot of of work cut out for them in terms of regaining balance and stability after giving birth. A chiropractor who specializes in women and infant health, pregnancy, or postpartum has the perfect skillset to address this. As with maternal mental health professionals, not all chiropractors are trained to serve this special population, so you need to explicitly ask if this is an area of expertise. For two great examples of what to look for, check out Dr. Brook Merkel of Los Angeles, California and Dr. Isabel Griffith of Kitchener, Ontario.
There are a wide variety of levels of training and qualifications that fall under the nutrition scope. I personally would recommend consulting a Registered Dietitian over other nutrition professionals for issues related to nutrition during pregnancy, postpartum, and special topics such as gestational diabetes and breastfeeding. Why? The depth and quality of their training. Although RD licensing varies state by state, they are all rigorously trained in evidence-based nutrition counseling and typical have experience in a variety of settings including public health (government-funded) clinics, private health care facilities, and private practice. My favorite RD, Lily Nichols, has taken her expertise online – check out her recent post on postpartum nutritional needs and milk production here
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
If you are experiencing issues with pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, or pain during sexual intercourse, a pelvic floor PT may be your go to professional. Needless to say, your pelvic floor muscles had quite the load-bearing job during pregnancy, and may need some help re-learning how to function optimally postpartum. A pelvic floor PT is specifically trained to assess and treat the pelvic floor, and will use a variety of techniques (including manual manipulation, as a head’s up!) to help reduce pain and regain function. This is quite a specialized niche of physical therapy, and the best way I recommend finding one is through word-of-mouth referral.
You’ll notice I specifically said yoga therapist as opposed to yoga teacher. Yoga teacher training rarely covers postpartum needs, while a yoga therapist with specialized training in pregnancy and postpartum can help you address your physical and mental/emotional needs. That said, yoga therapy is not a licensed profession so you definitely will want to look into their training and qualifications to ensure that their expertise meets your need. Be sure to communicate what is going on in your body AND mind, as yoga therapy can address both simultaneously. This is one of my areas of expertise, so if you’d like to learn more feel free to reach out!
You may have heard about Ayurveda as yoga’s sister science, but did you know that there is also an incredible body of Ayurvedic knowledge about mothering the mother during the postpartum period? An Ayurvedic practitioner who has studied this branch of Ayurveda will be able to provide key guidance related to food and other lifestyle practices that can help you make this transition smoother. I’ve had the privilege of studying with Uma Thompson and being a client of Kaya Mindlin – check out their websites for some fantastic examples of what Ayurvedic postpartum care looks like.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a place to start!
Please leave a comment or send me a note if you have ideas about ways to improve or questions about how to set yourself up with your ideal postpartum support team.
Cheers to you getting the support you deserve as you transition from woman to mother!