Building a Holistic Toolkit for Pregnancy, Postpartum,
and Parenthood

When it comes to pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood, it’s necessary to take a whole-person approach to health and wellbeing. However, until we see large-scale institutional change, mothers must be armed with the knowledge they need to seek the care they deserve for their whole selves.

By Maris Feeley

Audre Lorde once wrote, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

 

When it comes to pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood, it’s necessary to take a whole-person approach to health and wellbeing. This means providing patient-centered care from a diverse range of resources to address physical, mental, emotional, and social needs. This includes experts collaborating together to listen to, treat, and nourish moms at every stage of their journey.

 

Medical providers are moving in this direction – it’s much more common now for OBGYNs to screen for postpartum depression, for pediatrician offices to also employ lactation counselors. At Carolina Birth & Wellness, we provide full-spectrum doula support as well as physical therapies, educational counseling, and opportunities for community.

 

However, until we see large-scale institutional change, we want to arm moms with the knowledge they need to seek the care they deserve for their whole selves. Below, our three-pronged approach to the support you need; in this ongoing blog series, we’ll dive deeper into specific examples with handy checklists for you to gather the team you need!

Who could feel safe admitting grief, ambivalence, anxiety in the Instagram age of the perfectly filtered newborn photo? HER Health Collective is leading the way in breaking down these barriers and opening up conversations!

- Maris Feeley

Physical

Carrying, birthing, and caring for a little one is a full body experience. Accordingly, you need a safety net to support all the many body parts working to support you!

 

Finding medical care that feels right for you can set the tone for your entire experience; trusting your obstetric team is key. You also deserve to practice physical self-care in your day-to-day life. Who can you turn to for guidance on breast/chestfeeding? Where can you seek some relief for your strong spine that keeps you upright throughout your day? How do you give your body the gift of movement while making space for belly and baby?

 

Only you know that it feels like to be in your body, and we urge every mom to turn to experts who listen to your lived experiences. Whatever magical trick worked for your high school friend’s sister’s colleague doesn’t have to work for you! While social support can be so validating (see below!), you also need unbiased, evidence-based advice as you navigate your evolving body’s needs.

 

Whether addressing aches and pains or learning about your pelvic floor, there are innumerable resources out there to help you enjoy your mom bod. In our next blog, we’ll be outlining the types of providers who can help you at every step of your journey.

Mental/Emotional

Research on mental health in prenatal and postpartum women demonstrates clearly that mood disorders are all too common – 1 in 5 women experience depression, anxiety, or further mental health crises on their path to parenthood. Additionally, research only confirms this for moms who receive a diagnosis; many parents struggle without official confirmation that something’s wrong. 

 

Without some form of treatment, mood disorders can take months or even years to be resolved, if they are at all. We must meet mothers where they’re at and read the signs as early as possible. 

 

Some of this stems from lack of information and education on identifying mood disorders. However, there’s also much to be said for the way society promotes silence around complex feelings about motherhood. Who could feel safe admitting grief, ambivalence, anxiety in the Instagram age of the perfectly filtered newborn photo?

 

HER Health Collective is leading the way in breaking down these barriers and opening up conversations! We also urge every mother to check in with an expert resource for mental and emotional health, just as we book annual check-ups for physical health. After giving birth, most moms will see their obstetric provider at their 6-week appointment, if not sooner; who can you see for a mental and emotional follow-up? 

 

Part 3 of this series will provide a helpful list of ideas for how to start caring for yourself beyond your physical needs.

Social

Since the beginning of time, humans have been social creatures – the collective is key to survival. No one is meant to navigate this life alone, and the path to becoming a parent can be the most beautiful and trying experience possible!

 

After a whirlwind few years, we know now more than ever the importance of community. Your own friends and family can hopefully be meaningful sources of assistance, both emotional and logistical. Who loves to cook for you? Whose shoulder can you cry on? If you’re planning for visitors in the postpartum period (or even now), we hope you have people in your circle that get it. No mom-shaming, no pushy advice, no commentary on your parenting decisions because they aren’t living your life!

 

Even beyond the loved ones that have known you from day one, we believe it’s vital to get to know moms who don’t remember what you were like ten years ago – people you can bond with as just your present self for a new perspective. From HER Circle to stroller walking groups, online options to identity-based gatherings, we’ll be following up in our final installment of this series with the many types of social support parents should consider.

 

Across these three facets of a whole-person approach, doulas can serve as a guide and source of support. During labor or in the fourth trimester, they can provide guidance and relief through the discomfort of contractions or the adjustment to a newborn’s sleep schedule. While they aren’t meant to replace therapists, doulas are professional empaths, holding space for the complex feelings that can arise over the course of bringing a little one into the world. As a client once dearly told me, a doula is like “a professional friend.” Often, we’re already plugged into a network of perinatal resources and professionals.

 

As the adage goes, it takes a village. We look forward to helping you gather yours.

Maris is a full-spectrum doula and reproductive justice advocate. Experienced in supporting birth, postpartum, loss, and bereavement, she also works as a childbirth educator and placenta encapsulation specialist. With an evidence-based approach, Maris creates spaces for women to make informed decisions that feel intuitive for their bodies and families. Beyond being a full-time doula, Maris also stepped into a new role as co-owner and director of Carolina Birth & Wellness.

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