Like most women, upon the news of my pregnancy, I started putting myself second. I began eating food that benefitted the baby, wearing new clothes to make room for my belly, and eliminating anything toxic in the house which included some of the most effective cleaners and my favorite beauty products. This process has actually been wildly beneficial and I am grateful for my cleaner life but the point is, I became second the moment there was a child in the picture. When I found out I was pregnant, I did everything that I could to prepare for the baby coming Earthside. We painted the room, got organic bedding, wooden toys, cozy baby clothes and anything else that we could think of to help the baby transition into this world. We shower the mother with for the baby, but what about helping mother transition into motherhood? Recently a friend called me in hysterics. She was about 4 months postpartum and was having a really tough day. Like many mothers, she didn't know what to expect and didn't know how hard the journey into motherhood would be. I was grateful that I could be a resource for her and could be someone to listen when she needed it most. But how can we prepare for motherhood and what are some preventative steps we can take to ensure balance after having a baby? This was exactly what I asked Rebecca Egbert from The Mother Love. Rebecca has become one of my favorite resources for all things mother and I loved what she shared about this transformational time in a women's life.
E | In all honesty, I don’t think the transition into motherhood is meant to be easy. I know that sounds harsh, but your intuitive skills are changing, your body on the whole - cellular to bone - is morphing, and your mental health is going through change. Early motherhood is a lot like being the Founder of a startup, it’s filled with constant change and recently I’ve heard A LOT that change isn’t designed to be easy.
What I’ve seen really work to make this transition easier is access to care and education. As a Midwife, we saw our patients up to 7 times postpartum in the first 6-weeks. They had more access to time spent with a provider, talking about physical transitions to emotional to mental transitions. We are constantly screening women for PPD, even if we’re not asking questions that would show up on a PPD screen.
Having more Postpartum Care in our clinical protocols and guidelines, like up to 3 or 4, would help make this transition easier and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more data on this in the coming year or so.
Now, is there any preventative PPD or PP difficulties that can be limited by something preventative? YES. We mention these in the cards.
There’s also a great study that was the one that gave me the idea for LMH about screening both prenatally and postpartum, multiple times, and providing self-care education early for the prevention and awareness of PPD. When they were screened more than one and discussed their history (or lack of history) of mental health providers prenatally, it gave the provider team multiple tools to help a mother receive care early enough to be preventative. These women also received multiple visits postpartum, and postpartum depression/difficulties were mentioned with every visit and their providers encouraged these women to seek out extra help with their clinic if they should struggle at any point after 6-weeks postpartum.
The results of the study were that women, because they were provided ample education and conversation around postpartum mental health, had lower rates of PPD and if they did have mental health issues, they were diagnosed and received health care within the first few months postpartum.
It is KEY that women receive education and are screened wholeheartedly (and I don’t say this word lightly) by providers for postpartum depression and difficulties during their pregnancy care. And the second step of this is the important education for women to create a system of help and support, ahead of the birth. This can be friends, family, nannies, babysitters, daycare providers, health providers - the goal is to know who you need to turn to and who you can ask for help. I often suggest women call or talk to these key people in their lives during their pregnancy and tell them they might call on them for support after their birth. Then I suggest they put this list of numbers, in order of significance to your heart and wellbeing AND who will show up, on the fridge as a call list. The list should include your OB/Midwife, and mental health therapist if you have one - in case of a postpartum anxiety attack or something where the brain shuts down on a woman and she feels at a loss on how to receive help. This kind of system, to me, is considered in the “self-care” realm. It’s a proactive measure that is empowering and let’s people know you might be scared of what’s coming, or overwhelmed by, knowing the feelings of motherhood especially when combined with a career can be BIG!
I had a woman call me prenatally describing her history and story of her current pregnancy sometime last year. I suggested this system to her, and she did the work. 6-months after the birth of her baby, I checked in with her and she told me how incredible the conversations and support had been to her sanity, her relationship, and her overall health.
Having conversations ahead of the birth, and setting up a plan for postpartum care and support can help prevent a lot of postpartum difficulties. We can’t do it all alone nor do we need to try. We are different than our mothers, and grandmothers, our world is different. What I see a lot is lots of women don’t know where to go or how to get help, especially if the struggle is really real say 3-months postpartum or even 8-months postpartum. We lay this out in the “mind” section of LMH on how to help yourself, but also the list of providers designed to care for women who are struggling during the first year postpartum.
There are so many things we can do to help ourselves out earlier to help and build awareness around the important and improvement of postpartum health care.
If you aren't familiar with Rebecca I encourage you to visit her site and sign up for her newsletter, which lifts me up each time I receive. She also created Little Mother's Helper, a deck of cards geared towards postpartum health. She is a huge advocate of postpartum and prenatal health is is an overall incredible human being. Follow her @themotherlove for daily inspiration.