It’s not a secret that I’m pretty passionate about maternal mental health. Actually, it may not be something I’ve communicated very well in the past. So maybe it is a secret and I’m outing myself! Anyway, if there is one thing that keeps me in doula work it’s maternal mental health. How we feel and the stability of our emotions have an incredible impact on how we parent. How we perceive our births and those first few months postpartum have a huge impact on us for the rest of our lives.
Postpartum is already an incredibly emotional time. Our hormones are going crazy as they transition our bodies from pregnancy to no longer being pregnant and often lactating. Our brains have just completely rewired themselves to bond with and parent this new little person. And if it’s the first baby, we are adjusting to a completely new way of life. We need the best start possible here to thrive.
My own experience with postpartum depression (or rather mood disorders) started as what I would describe as anxiety. I did not fit the descriptions of postpartum depression that I could find. I was functioning. My baby was cared for. I got up each morning and went to work. I made it to church on the weekends. I still showered. I concluded that how I was feeling must just be parenting. Except I wasn’t okay. My brain was in a state of semi panic all the time. I couldn’t breath. I was paralyzed be the 99 bajillion things in my head. This progressed to the occasional panic attack. I didn’t get treatment until my daughter was three. By then, things had progressed passed just anxiety. I didn’t realize how bad I felt until I felt better.
In my case we also had a series of very significant life events happen in the year before her birth and in the two years after. I remember constantly trying to figure out if how I felt was because I was postpartum or because of our life circumstances. Nevertheless, I needed treatment and I fell through the cracks.
My takeaway is this: Parenting is hard. Having a new baby is hard. All of this is hard and you are changed. But. BUT. Postpartum mood disorders don’t always look like depression and we do ourselves and new mothers a disservice by continuing to promote that model. It may take a few weeks but you should feel mostly like yourself (just with your heart now running around outside your body). The things you enjoy in life should not completely disappear. You should still get excited about things that you did before even if you have less time to pursue them. Panic attacks are not normal. Flashbacks and PTSD symptoms are not normal (and are terrifying common among postpartum women). These are signs that things are not as they should be and you may need outside help.
Surround yourself with support. If your family and partner don’t understand, seek support elsewhere. Support groups that are specifically for postpartum mood disorders can be incredible. One of our local hospitals here in Indy has one I highly recommend. But so can general parenting support groups like Breastfeeding USA or ICAN or MOPS. Sometimes just knowing you aren’t alone makes all the difference.
Sometime, though, you need more than just support and it’s time to talk to your doctor. If your OB is unsupportive or blows you off, find a doctor who is supportive. It doesn’t have to be an OB. Medication is not evil and doesn’t have to be forever but it can be lifesaving in the short term.
This is why I’m a doula. As women, as mothers, we deserve better. Our mental health is incredibly important and impacts every aspect of our lives. We need our struggles to be recognized and taken seriously. It’s vital to our lives and our families that this is the case. Our children deserve it as much as we do!
There are few things I’ve seen that make as big of a difference in labor and birth as chiropractic care. At one point, after a series of very long births, I considered only taking clients who were being seen by a chiropractor. I didn’t make that change but I do strongly suggest to all my clients that they see one. It makes that much of a difference.
Prenatal-specific chiropractic care during pregnancy helps address all the aches and pains that are considered normal. That low back pain? This will help. Having trouble with your pubic bone? This won’t solve it but it will help. Previous tail bone injury? This may make a big difference for you. Adjustments also help promote balance in the pelvis to provide baby with the most room to move around possible. This in turn encourages baby to move around and more easily move to the best possible position for birth as the time approaches.
In addition, continuing care after your pregnancy can help your body regain its normal balance as you adjust to no longer being pregnant. Your body make a big change in those 9 months of pregnancy and then a pretty quick one at birth. It takes time to heal and recover. Chiropractic care can aid in that recovery.
If you are looking for a chiropractor or would like to speak with one more about the services they offer, we have an abundance of wonderful chiropractors in our community that treat pregnant women. Here are a few that I highly recommend in no particular order:
Shrout Family Chiropractic in Carmel with Dr. Melissa Shrout & Dr. Tracy Reichert. They have a float tank too!
Rangeline Chiropractic in Carmel with Dr. Hilary Hushower
Sacred Spines with Dr. Kristen Hartwell. Her office is located inside Sacred Roots Birth Center on the west side.
Mommy & Me Chiropractic with Dr. Stephanie Muir located on the Southside.
Indy Kids Chiropractic in Castleton with Dr. Kristin Huber
Pala Chiropractic with Dr. Shawn Pala in Noblesville.
Himsel Chiropractic with Dr. Jared Himself in Noblesville.
Chiropractic during your pregnancy can make you more comfortable and shorten your labor. Even if this is something you’ve been skeptical of in the past, I encourage you to try during your pregnancy. Find someone you like. It could make a big difference in your comfort level now and birth later.
Interested in doula services? I'd love to work with you!
Women have a unique relationship with their breasts and since most of you reading this probably have them, you know that it’s far more complicated than it should be. Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding (or lack of) add a whole new element to that relationship. By the time baby is born they are barely recognizable as your own and then they are barely even yours after. You worry about them working right and cry when sometimes they don’t. They are an amazing part of what makes us women. And for those of us with family history of breast cancer, in that relationship there is an element of fear.
I got my first mammogram a couple weeks ago. No, I’m not forty yet (although it’s starting to feel like it’s looming) but family history indicated it was time. That, and there are too many women in my extended circle dying of breast cancer in their 30s and family members being diagnosed to put it off any longer. I know there is controversy about effectiveness and radiation all that. I know that some people feel that thermography is a better option. I ultimately chose mammography as my best option at this time. And I felt like I was joining a club.
I now know what the jokes are about and how awkward it is. It’s like a adjustable vice. For some reason I’d thought there would be some, I don’t know, shape to it. For some reason it never occurred to me to look up what the machine looked like. (For those of you who haven’t seen one, that’s what that picture is!) Added to that, no matter how carefully I followed directions, I was not in the correct position. That meant, not only was I getting squished, I also had a lady poking and prodding and grabbing me to get me into the right position. It was sort of like trying to learn to breastfeed all over again only hands free. But I survived. It wasn’t super painful. Just uncomfortable and awkward.
We all know about breast cancer. You’d have to live under a rock to avoid the pink ribbons and not be “aware.” We are "aware" to the point that "awareness" is nearly a joke. But no awareness in the world matters, no statistics or “risk” matter if you are part of those numbers. We all know someone who is affected. I’m leery enough of the radiation to not be sure I’ll have yearly scans after I turn 40 and I have a few years yet before I need to make that decision. I will, however, continue to do regular self exams and talk to my doctor about my options given my history. As women (and some men) these are choices we face. I’ll take the choices that come with getting older over the alternative. When the time comes, and if you decide mammography is also the right decision for you, I’ll say, “welcome to the club!”
Adina Nelson, CD(DONA)
I am a birth & postpartum doula and chlidbirth educator practicing in North Idaho.
She was there every step of the way for me and my husband...I thank Adina for everything she helped us with. She truly is a special person and we will be forever grateful for her! ~Erin