Caring for yourself during pregnancy and postpartum periods starts pre-conception, lasts throughout your pregnancy and childbirth, and never really stops postpartum. 77% of women seek their initial prenatal care during the first trimester, and most women will have about 10-15 visits with an OBGYN throughout their pregnancy. And lots of women know that there will be a 6-week check up after birth to give you the “all clear” (while your baby has at least 4, by the way). To some people, this may sound like enough.. and a lot. But if we think about the fact that is takes almost 10 months for a woman to carry a baby and that the event of childbirth in an incredible, taxing feat for any woman, I beg to differ.
Your visits with an OBGYN will be just enough to scratch the surface. There obviously is a large focus on the development of the fetus and safety of the mother, which is nothing but important. However, I have seen time and time again that there is just not enough TIME for women to express concerns about pain they may be having, difficulties performing activities, symptoms like leaking or vaginal heaviness, etc. And sadly, sometimes these things are brushed off or women are told it is “normal” to experience during pregnancy. Well, they may be COMMON, but they are NOT normal. During a postpartum visit, an OBGYN gives the “all clear” that your vaginal tissues are healing well. That is also great news, but your whole body is not fully healed at 6 weeks. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but I want to be honest.
And there is good news: Other birth professionals can address these concerns at any stage of prenatal or postpartum care. So who are these “other birth professionals”? Let’s break it down. And please note, this list is not all-inclusive.
- Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
- A midwife is like a primary care provider for all gynecological care from adolescence through menopause, and they are also AMAZING at listening to and fulfilling your needs during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Seeing a midwife does not mean that you have to have a natural birth, but by all means they will support you if you want it. A midwife can also give you referrals to other birth professionals. Learn more.
- Pelvic floor physical therapist
- A PFPT is a specialist in musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions of the pelvic floor (and the rest of your body). They can help guide you through treatment for common issues like pain, incontinence, prolapse, diastasis recti, constipation, painful sex, c-section recovery. They can also help with childbirth preparation, return to exercise, baseline screening, and nervous system regulation. You can begin seeing a PFPT preconception and at any stage of pregnancy or postpartum — even as early as 2 weeks and as late at 10, 20, 30+ years.
- A doula is there to support you during pregnancy, birth, and/or postpartum stages. Think of them as being your advocate to insure your needs are met and the pros in guiding your birth experience. They are experts in comfort measures during pregnancy and childbirth, and can provide a sense of calm during postpartum recovery. Doulas may also provide support to those who have experienced pregnancy loss of any kind.
- Pregnancy or Postpartum Fitness Coach
- A coach helps you through exercise to keep up your training, endurance, and strength so that you have the best capacity to give birth and recover from it. Many coaches are personal trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, physical therapists.
- Mental Health Specialist
- Your mental health should always deserve attention day in and day out. You do not have to go through any stage of pregnancy or postpartum on your own. Mental health specialists have the tools and training to provide you with ways to handle ANY challenge you are experiencing at this time. Postpartum depression is another common issue, and can be treated.
- A nutritionist will help keep you on track to support you and your baby with the appropriate nutrients and diet that fit your needs. Your body is going through a lot of changes, and it needs the energy, minerals, hormones, macronutrients to keep up. Diet can be particularly helpful postpartum to assist the healing process.
- Certified Lactation Consultant
- Any birthing person who decides to breastfeed may need some assistance in how to do so. Don’t rely on it becoming an innate experience. Get the appropriate guidance to insure both you and your baby are feeding well.
- Massage Therapist
- A massage therapist who is trained in prenatal and postpartum massage can provide support for aches, pains, mental health, and overall wellbeing during your pregnancy or postpartum recovery. Their bodywork and knowledge of the body’s soft tissues are an excellent adjunct to your birth team.
- A chiropractor with training and experience in prenatal and postpartum care can also support you through common pains and other issues. Trained chiropractors are sometimes known for assisting in re-positioning babies that are not descending into the pelvis well or are creating a lot of pain for the pregnant woman.
There are many resources to find these providers in your area, and if one good thing has come from COVID-19, many of these providers now offer a wider range of virtual services as well. Below are great search engines to find a provider:
- Brianna Battles Professional Network
- Local facebook groups (word of mouth is fabulous)
If you still aren’t sure what you are looking for, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You deserve to go play with your kids, run a 5K, or go out to dinner with your friends without these worries along with you!
World Health Organization: Postnatal Care for Mother and Newborns 2014
American College of Nurse Midwives Comparison Chart
What to Expect: Your Guide to Prenatal Appointments