Who Else Should Be On Your Birth Team?
From doulas to sleep consultants, here’s everyone you might want to help you before or after birth
For your information
Not all of these birth experts will be necessary for everyone’s pregnancy journey. And remember that this is just a list to help you get started. Just as everyone’s birth is different, your birth team will be too!
A birth team is there to support you in all aspects of your journey. Whether you’re struggling to get restful sleep or managing gestational diabetes, having experts by your side is valuable.
In addition to your midwife or OB/GYN, you may want a doula. Doulas provide different types of physical, emotional, and informational support. Some specialize in providing this support during pregnancy and labor. Others may help you after you’ve given birth. Each doula provides slightly different services. It’s helpful to spend time interviewing doulas to make sure you get the support you need.
Birth doulas are sometimes called birth coaches or birth companions. They provide non-medical support before, during, and after birth. Often, this support includes helping non-birthing partners and families.
Birth doulas help ease the birth and labor process by providing lots of resources. They can answer your questions, assist with preparation, and more. Birth doulas are experts at labor support. This often helps everyone feel at ease, including partners and families. They often meet you at home for support during early labor. If you’re giving birth elsewhere, they’ll accompany you to the hospital or birth center. They can physically support you through every contraction and provide comfort measures.
Labor and birth are just one part of the perinatal journey. In fact, many people find the “4th trimester” harder than the first 3. Postpartum doulas assist families after birth by providing a wide variety of support options. Postpartum doulas may offer childcare for the baby or older children of the family. They may assist with meal prep and planning, provide postpartum massages, placenta encapsulation, and more.
The pregnancy and birth journey can look vastly different from person to person. Full-spectrum doulas provide holistic support to meet a broad range of unique needs and circumstances. They are able to provide support before, during, and after pregnancy. Like birth doulas, they are often skilled in labor support. Full-spectrum doulas often help during postpartum. They also provide sensitive and compassionate support during miscarriages, abortions, and adoption.
Pelvic physical therapists
Pregnancy causes excessive strain on the pelvic floor muscles and tissues. This can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause a variety of symptoms, from constipation to incontinence. It may also cause pain during intercourse. Pelvic floor problems sometimes lead to back and hip pain.
For your information
Many insurance plans pay for several sessions of pelvic physical therapy after birth.
A pelvic physical therapist (PT) can help those experiencing dysfunction after birth. They have strategies to reduce pain, improve mobility, and correct urinary and bowel patterns. Pelvic PTs prescribe a variety of exercises. They may use biofeedback, vaginal dilators, and more to assist in recovery.
Many new parents struggle with their infant’s sleep patterns. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are common. Sleep consultants work with both parents and babies to help promote better sleep. They may provide phone, video, or in-person sleep training to offer personalized support. These trainings provide evidence-based, holistic aid to help parents and newborns establish more successful sleep routines. The trainings can last as long as you need support and often include check-ins via text or email.
Caption: mom sleeping with baby
A lactation consultant specializes in chest/breastfeeding. They help parents struggling with latching, milk supply, or soreness. Some hospitals and birthing centers have lactation consultants on site. These consultants typically provide support immediately after birth. For more support, many private lactation consultants offer counseling. Ultimately, their goal is to help parents improve their ability to bodyfeed for as long as they choose.
For your information
Many doulas and midwives are also certified lactation consultants!
Nutritionists or registered dieticians (RDNs or RDs) can play a key role in both pregnancy and postpartum. Dieticians help you design and implement meal plans. They design meals that are manageable and provide energy-sustaining nutrition. They also play an important role in helping manage gestational diabetes.
RDNs can help identify underlying causes of fatigue. They may also help identify and address nutrient deficiencies or hormonal imbalances. Specific postpartum nutrition plans can support a healthy milk supply for chest/breastfeeding parents.
Depending on your needs, your midwife or OB will suggest seeing a registered dietitian. But you don’t need to wait for a referral! Sometimes nutrition counseling is covered by insurance plans, too.
Pregnancy and birth bring about a multitude of physical, emotional, and mental changes. These often contribute to stress. It’s common to experience a complex mix of emotions, from joy and excitement to fear and guilt.
Mental health specialists
Roughly 1 out of 7 birthing parents experience postpartum depression. 1 out of 5 experience postpartum anxiety. Research shows that getting support can vastly improve mood disorders. Perinatal mental health counselors or therapists offer compassionate emotional support and treatment.
For parents experiencing a perinatal mood disorder, such as postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or OCD, mental health specialists can help address the specific needs and risks that come with these disorders. They may also be able to connect you with additional support such as lactation and sleep consultants, new-parent groups, and more.
Pregnancy and parenthood often shift partnerships and relationships. Even strong relationships are tested by parenthood! Couples’ counseling is an instance where a therapist or counselor can be helpful. They can help identify problems and improve communication. They’ll often suggest ways to re-strengthen your relationships.
Physical wellness experts
Physical, emotional, and mental health are all important before and after pregnancy. Many new parents benefit from physical support before and after birth.
Massage is a great tool for reducing stress and improving health outcomes both before and after birth. Working with a massage therapist during pregnancy can promote relaxation and reduce back and pelvic pain. For some birthing parents, massage helps with pregnancy-related issues like headaches and pain in the feet or legs. Massage therapy can help pregnant people prevent, reduce, and manage this pain during pregnancy.
Postpartum massage therapy comes with its own set of benefits. For example, along with pain relief, therapists specializing in postpartum massage can promote better hormone regulation, better sleep, decreased swelling, and increased milk production.
Acupuncture is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It has assisted in the postpartum recovery process for over 3,000 years! Acupuncturists are often able to help manage pain during pregnancy. They also help with recovery after birth.
Acupuncture can promote higher energy and better moods. It may decrease stress and pelvic pain. Acupuncture also helps with lactation, inflammation, urinary incontinence, constipation, and more. Acupuncturists are often trained on other aspects of TCM. They may suggest nutrition and lifestyle changes based on your needs.
Staying active can contribute to an overall healthier pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period. You can work with yoga, Pilates, or prenatal exercise instructors. They’ll help you maintain a consistent routine and find exercises that work for you. Some benefits of gentle exercise during pregnancy and after birth include less stress, better sleep, and less pain.
Additionally, regular exercise has been linked to better birth outcomes. Research shows a reduced risk of complications during labor. Certain prenatal exercises can even help shorten the pushing stage of labor. Exercise during pregnancy may decrease the risk of an unplanned cesarean birth.
Parenting and Child Safety Instructors
Especially if this is your first pregnancy, there is a lot to parenting you might not know! Child safety classes can help decrease anxiety. They’ll teach you what to do in different situations. Infant CPR classes are one helpful example. Though you hopefully never have to use that skill, it’s good to know what to do in a crisis.
General parenting classes may be very useful if you haven’t had much experience with newborns. They are also a great place to meet other people and form a support network before you give birth!