We all know that moms need support in raising children, but few realize that support in the process of becoming a mother is just as crucial. Especially considering the evolving effects of COVID-19 on our healthcare system, new mamas can better navigate the profound psychological and emotional changes that take place from pregnancy through postpartum with the right *virtual* support team.
Matrescence, or the process of becoming a mother, is much more than giving birth. It’s a physiological and emotional journey that is best supported with guidance from trusted experts and skilled providers. This team can be just as effective when engaging remotely.
Your provider, whether obstetrician/midwife/doctor of osteopathy/family physician, is your home base for information on giving birth safely, especially now as we continue to learn about the effects of COVID-19. They can help guide you with the changing information and guidelines for pregnancy and delivery. Your provider is your best resource for up-to-date information about your geographic region, the policies of the place you’ll be giving birth, and the most personalized recommendations based on your scenario. Keep in mind that you can ask to have conversations with your provider on the phone even if your appointments are cancelled or rescheduled.
In addition to your provider, other specialists can support you physically and emotionally as you become a mom. From doulas to lactation consultants, many of these experts are now providing virtual care: meaning they can still support you with empowering tools and information while everyone stays safely distant. You may be able to go to the hospital with your birth partner in person and with your doula on a device, giving you individualized coping skills when you need them most.
Now is the time to prepare for virtual support during labor, birth and postpartum period. At of the time of publication, most hospitals and birth places are allowing one person to be with mothers during labor, birth and postpartum. That may change, and we want mamas to be prepared in today’s shifting landscape of birth.
Whether you’re a first time mom, or you’ve given birth before, it helps tremendously to have experts available on the line to help. Here’s who I recommend you have on your birth team.
Each hospital or birth place has different policies when it comes to people supporting mom. While some hospitals have restricted this to one person, other birth places (such as birthing centers) may allow moms to have an additional support person, such as a doula.
The person (or people) you choose to support you in labor can help guide your birth according to your preferences. They can help you by providing comfort measures and empowering you to use your coping skills.
Keep in mind that the possibility of in-person support can always change, so be prepared in case all of your labor support needs to be virtual. For example, can you borrow a friend’s tablet and invest in additional chargers to ensure you stay connected?
Remember, in a hospital, you will have a nurse with you, so don’t be afraid to ask your support team at the hospital or birthing center to help you with coping skills and comfort measures you need. The nurse for my son’s birth was incredibly helpful in guiding me where I needed the most help.
Like travel guides in a foreign country, birth and postpartum doulas help support new families through the life-changing experience of having a baby. Whether it’s a family’s first baby or their tenth, a doula can help make the birth and postpartum experience better.
A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.
Many doulas are now offering virtual services before, during, and after birth. Your doula can teach you and your birth partner effective comfort measures and crucial information via virtual meetings before birth so you have multiple tools at your disposal during labor and delivery. In addition, birth doulas can be virtually present to guide you during birth in real time.
While breastfeeding is a natural process, sometimes it doesn’t come naturally to all moms and babies. This is when an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant can help ease some of mom’s worries, and assist with some of the difficulties many moms experience.
Moms can find a lactation specialist on staff at the hospital where they give birth, or one might be recommended by a pediatrician’s office. Many lactation consultants offer prenatal breastfeeding classes (now virtual) to answer your questions and set you up for success even before baby arrives. I highly recommend first-time mamas planning to breastfeed connect with a lactation consultant before birth and take a prenatal breastfeeding class.
Here's my lactation consultant's information (Jen Kowal). Jen was a godsend in my breastfeeding journey, from going back to work and pumping all the way until I weaned my son successfully with her help.
Jen teaches online breastfeeding classes and does virtual prenatal and postpartum consults, as well. She covers teaching breastfeeding basics, getting off to a great start, hand expression, and going over medical history to address any possible complications to breastfeeding that can be addressed ahead of time. For virtual visits after birth, Jen can help with painful latch, slow weight gain, milk supply, pumping for return to work, assessing for tongue tie and providing pre- and post-operative care for tongue tie and so much more. Jen supports families who want to feed at the breast, who want or need to pump to give their breast milk, and those who want or need to use formula to supplement their baby’s needs. Through it all, Jen's platform is maternal mental health and all of her care plans are designed to take the nursing person's mental health into consideration while meeting the physical and emotional needs of the entire family.
You can also learn how to find a lactation consultant here.
Or register for an upcoming live virtual Prenatal Breastfeeding class with Avalon Wellness Center here (5/27 and 6/24).
Pelvic floor physical therapy can be life-changing for mamas. It can help prenatally and postpartum, as the therapy involves biofeedback and exercises to encourage relaxation and strengthening of the muscles of the lower pelvis. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help moms prepare for the push and heal the pelvic floor and abdominals following birth.
A common result of pregnancy, affecting over 60% of postpartum women, is a separation of the abdominal muscles, or diastasis recti. The condition has long been dismissed as a cosmetic issue – termed “mummy tummy” – leaving expectant and postpartum mothers without the tools to advocate for their health when they experience symptoms like lower back pain, constipation, pelvic floor dysfunction, urinary incontinence, and abdominal weakness. Pelvic floor physical therapists can help moms heal diastasis recti, and the Every Mother Reclaim program is a virtual exercise plan I love, as it empowered me to resolve my diastasis recti. (I'm now an Every Mother affiliate, so use code JaneD15 for 15% off the initial subscription). Every Mother has prenatal programs, as well.
Pelvic floor physical therapists can also provide exercises to also help heal C-sections and prepare mothers for VBACs.
Here's my physical therapist's information (Dr. Shannen Kirchner) and and how to find a pelvic floor and abdominal rehabilitation specialist near you.
Also, it's vital to learn what to expect from postpartum pelvic floor therapy.
We’re living in an exceedingly anxious time. The level of stress is high for expectant and new parents, so if you’ve thought you could use mental health support (even if you’re not sure exactly what you’re reaching out about), now is the time to explore it.
Many mental health therapists are providing virtual telehealth services and many of them are covered by insurance. So reach out and see if you can talk to someone. Therapists can help give you coping skills to get you through this incredibly challenging time.
And remember this: even if you don’t have clinical PPD/PPA, there is an entire spectrum of emotions and anxiety that accompany childbirth and motherhood. Some moms experience perinatal depression before the baby's arrival and others experience symptoms several months or years after birth, or after the arrival of additional children.
Even if you aren’t diagnosed with PPD/PPA doesn’t mean your motherhood is all sunshine and rainbows. You’re allowed to have a tough time in the transition to motherhood, and as far as I’m concerned, that transition is not linear and can take years. Becoming a mother can be the most powerful and rewarding experience of your life - and you don’t have to go it alone.
Knowledge is power, and that is certainly true in motherhood. Choose your sources wisely, and seek out an on-demand online birth course for you and your partner to be best-equipped for the big day. Here are some of my favorite online birth classes:
And here are some live virtual classes out of the Avalon Wellness Center. I took these classes in-person while pregnant and felt much better prepared for my first baby as a result:
The way a woman moves (or doesn’t move) during pregnancy affects her birth experience and recovery. Learn to move intelligently with the right guidance for you. Daily yoga and simple movement like walking can provide better range of motion, emotional grounding and flexibility, better fetal descent and better fetal positioning.
For more guidance on finding the right mama-to-be movement for you, read my blog post with resources on how to build yoga and movement into your pregnancy.
As a prenatal yoga teacher and new mama, I know first-hand that yoga helps mamas-to-be find ease in their body and calm in their mind. Join me on Thursday nights at 8:30p ET for virtual prenatal yoga from the comfort of your home. Here’s how to sign up for live online classes.
Written by Jane Daly Danese, ebb + flow co.