Updated: Aug 1, 2022
There are now amazing resources for expecting mamas all over the internet. So many, that it can be overwhelming.
So much of pregnancy, birth, labor, postpartum, lactation, and parenting, is based in opinion. That means that moms doing a google search to find out how to prepare for labor and delivery are assaulted with millions of opinions that are presented like facts.
As a pelvic floor physical therapist that works specifically with pregnant and postpartum moms, I am offering my perspective on who you should have on your birth team, and when to reach out to them.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
A pelvic floor physical therapist is your number one go-to for all aches and pains during pregnancy, preparing the body for birth, and your trusted resource throughout your postpartum journey (and beyond). Think of pelvic floor physical therapy as a lifestyle to prevent injury and heal if it happens.
Pelvic floor physical therapy can begin in the planning stages of pregnancy and last all throughout pregnancy. Your pelvic floor PT will be able to give you specific advise on exercising during pregnancy that is tailored to the unique needs of your body.
You pelvic floor PT will help prepare you for birth and healing postpartum. Pelvic floor PT should be involved every step of the way.
Midwife or Ob-gyn
Your medical team will also be present with you throughout the pregnancy and postpartum era. Your choice in medical provider and setting will dictate how often you see your provider and have labs and ultrasounds performed.
You will see your provider(s) many times during pregnancy, but for most hospital-based births you will see your provider only once postpartum at your 6-week check up.
Because many medical concerns can arise in the postpartum period, I advise having some form of accessible primary care, family practice, or ob-gyn lined up for postpartum emergencies.
Issues like UTI's, mastitis, blood pressure and mental health concerns need to be treated immediately, and waiting 6 weeks for the ob-gyn you used for pregnancy to see you is unacceptable.
I really recommend finding someone who is not affiliated with the facility you used for birth. Even birth centers that say they do women's wellness still have birthing women as their primary concern, and may not be willing to address your postpartum concerns as readily as they were able to address pregnancy concerns.
I signed up for a concierge Nurse Practitioner during my postpartum period so I could get care whenever I needed it. Have someone lined up that has the availability to get you seen asap postpartum.
Lactation can be a very opinionated space. Moms that have difficulty breastfeeding, compounded by lack of lactation support, are far more likely to give up and switch to formula before they may have wanted to. I recommend my moms establish with a lactation consultant they trust and vibe with before giving birth. Hospital lactation consultants might be all you need, but having someone in the community that you trust and can turn to for help as soon as you get home can completely turn the trajectory of your breast feeding experience around.
If breastfeeding your baby is your goal, I can't stress enough the importance of having a lactation consultant you trust in your pocket before giving birth. It can make all the difference in your feeding journey.
Having a doula is a game changer, especially for first time moms. A doula will help advocate your wishes to your medical team during the throws of labor. This frees up your partner to be there for you instead of trying to navigate a complex medical system on their own.
Doulas are also trained in methods to help decrease and manage labor pain. Having a doula present during your birth experience will help you to feel empowered during your labor and birth, and help you make choices that align with your belief systems.
Doulas will fill in the gaps that even the best birthing courses left out. You Doula will help guide you in deciding when to go to the hospital during labor and when to request pain management interventions.
Trust me. Get a doula on your team.
There are also postpartum doulas that can come help you through the postpartum period. If you find yourself in need of a break, don't hesitate to look up a postpartum doula who can come help you get some sleep.
Mental Health Provider or Life Coach
The mental health aspect of postpartum is real. Let's face the facts, many of us are suffering from anxiety and depression before we even give birth. Add a baby, sleep deprivation, and major physical and hormone changes to the mix, and it's a wonder any of us make it out alive.
Find yourself a mental health provider and/or life coaching program that you vibe with. I personally found cognitive behavioral therapy and life coaching to be what I needed to make it through, and I still lean heavily on my coaches 2 years later.
Who you choose as a provider will depend on your mental health and medical history. My advice to you is to spend some time really shopping around. There are many different mental health providers and coaches out there, all with varying skills, specialties and philosophies. You need to feel comfortable and open with yours.
When it comes to assembling a team for pregnancy and postpartum, I recommend:
Pelvic floor physical therapist
Midwife/Ob-gyn during pregnancy
Accessible primary care provider for postpartum period (preferably not the same provider as during pregnancy).
Mental Health/Life Coach
Your pelvic floor physical therapist will be part of your journey throughout the entire pregnancy and postpartum. We are the ones that help with aches and pain, pee leaks, prolapse, swelling, hemorrhoids, fissures, abdominal separation, and heal it all after.
Establish with the providers your want lined up in the postpartum period during the third trimester of pregnancy so you are not scrambling to find someone in the throws of a crises postpartum.
Make sure you shop around for your provider!!! We are all humans, with varying specialties, personalities, and treatment philosophies. Assemble a team that you love, are comfortable telling all to, reflects your values, and has the time to see you when needed.
If you don't live in an area with these types of providers at your disposal, there are many online and telehealth options!
Assemble your team mama, it will pay off.