How to build a pregnancy support system - Ruth Health

How to build a pregnancy support system

Fast facts:

  • Be sure to have safe, supportive people by your side as you bring your baby into the world. That includes both your health care team and your circle of friends and family.
  • A birth team may include both medically trained healthcare providers like OB/GYNs and midwives as well as non-medically trained birth workers such as doulas.
  • In addition, choose a loved one — a partner, parent, sibling, or friend — to be your support person throughout labor and delivery and include them in your birth plan prep.
  • Consider pregnancy support groups to connect with birthing people at a similar stage of pregnancy, or who share your experiences of specific pregnancy challenges.
  • Postpartum recovery is often filled with physical and emotional challenges. Birthing professionals like postpartum doulas and lactation consultants can help ease the transition.

Pregnancy is a time of significant change — physically, emotionally, and mentally. Surrounding yourself with support can help ease the transition into parenthood or family life with a second (or third, or fourth) child.

Each birthing journey is unique, and a pregnancy support system can take many different forms, but the importance of support itself is universal.

No matter who’s on your birthing team or in your circle of loved ones, be sure to have safe, encouraging people by your side as you navigate this life chapter.

Here are some suggestions to help you start building your pregnancy support system.

Who should be on my birth team?

It’s important to have supportive people to guide you and your baby through pregnancy and childbirth. 

A birth team often includes:

  • Medically trained healthcare providers like obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs), midwives, and even primary care physicians with experience delivering babies
  • Non-medically trained birthing professionals such as doulas
  • A  support person who will be with you throughout labor and delivery, whether it’s a spouse, partner, parent, sibling, or friend

What is a doula?

Doulas are non-medically trained birthing professionals who offer individualized emotional, physical, and informational support. They fill in gaps frequently left open under the traditional model of maternal health care in the U.S.

Unlike physicians and midwives, who are medically trained and clinically certified, doulas cannot perform medical procedures. They are a complement to your care team and can offer individualized support and undivided attention beyond a medical provider’s scope.

During labor and delivery, a doula focuses entirely on your needs and intentions, offering continuous labor support. Doula care frequently contributes to better birth outcomes.

What should I look for in my birth team?

When assembling your care team, look for providers and health professionals who share your values and will respect your preferences for labor and childbirth.

For example, it may be of importance to you to have a provider who has experience working with LGBTQ+ patients, or one who’s responsive to your concerns about a previous traumatic birthing experience.

When choosing a friend, family member, or partner as your support person, consider your relationship with them outside the delivery room.

Remember, your decision is not a reflection of how much you love someone, but how comfortable you will be giving birth in their presence. Your physical and emotional well-being is the most important priority.

Once you have a support person in mind, include them in your birth plan preparation so that they can effectively advocate for your needs.

How can I benefit from pregnancy support groups?

Support groups are an opportunity to connect with other birthing people navigating similar experiences.

Due date groups can help you connect with those at the same stage of the pregnancy journey. Special interest groups can support you through specific challenges like giving birth after a previous experience with postpartum depression or pregnancy loss.

Pregnancy support groups vary in both structure and group dynamics, and it’s important to find one that feels like a good fit.

As a starting point, ask your birth facility, provider, or friends for recommendations. It will help your search if you have a sense of what you’re looking for and what you value in a group.

How should I plan for the postpartum period?

Similar to making a birth plan, think about your preferences for your first weeks and months with your new baby. Discuss them with the members of your support system so that you feel as prepared as possible for life with a newborn.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Feeding - Do you plan to breastfeed, bottle feed, or a combination of both? If you intend to breastfeed, work with a lactation consultant during pregnancy for prenatal lactation support. This can help set you up for success with breastfeeding.
  • Sleep - From where your baby is going to sleep and who’s responsible for the baby’s care during the night to your thoughts on sleep-training and bed-sharing, be sure to make a plan in advance.
  • Chores - Who will be responsible for groceries and meal prep during those early weeks? This is a good opportunity to lean on your extended circle of friends and family for support.
  • Childcare - If you have other children, who will be responsible for their care?
  • Visitors - Who do you want to come visit you and your baby during the early days and weeks? What length and frequency of visits are you comfortable with? This is a time to put your emotional needs above others’ preferences.

What birthing professionals offer postpartum support?

Make sure that you have plenty of support during the postpartum period — a time of physical and emotional challenges.

In addition to your family and friends, birthing professionals like postpartum doulas and lactation consultants can help ease the transition.

A postpartum doula ensures that you have what you need to adjust to life with your newborn and heal physically from childbirth. 

While the relationship can take many forms, many postpartum doulas offer:

  • Emotional support
  • Informational support
  • Referrals to specialists for postpartum challenges including breastfeeding issues and mental health disorders
  • Light housekeeping or meal prep

Ask A Doula by Ruth Health is a new service that offers unlimited texting access to a doula. You can get personalized support with postpartum planning, feeding, and anything else pregnancy or postpartum-related. Spaces are limited, so sign up today!

Lactation consultants are healthcare professionals who offer individualized support with breastfeeding challenges such as the following:

  • Breast engorgement
  • Sore, cracked, or painful nipples
  • Clogged milk ducts
  • Low milk supply
  • Latching issues
  • Pumping
  • And more!

How should I prioritize mental health during postpartum recovery?

Many birthing people experience some degree of mental health challenges during the postpartum period.

Up to 4 in 5 new parents experience the baby blues, which are feelings of sadness, anxiety, or fatigue in the days after childbirth. The baby blues typically improve within a week or two without treatment.

1 in 5 birthing people face a more intense mental health disorder called postpartum depression (PPD). This condition causes longer-term feelings of depression, mood swings, fatigue, and other symptoms.

Learn the signs of PPD before you enter the postpartum period, and don’t wait to seek help if you or others have any concerns about your mental health.

If you have experienced a mood disorder at any point in your life, discuss your mental health history with a healthcare provider at the beginning of your pregnancy or when family planning.

We’re here to support your birthing journey

At Ruth Health, we understand that nobody knows what you need better than you.

We’re here to help you prioritize self-care while navigating the fourth trimester and beyond, and to ensure that you’re never alone in this journey.

We provide expert, evidence based maternal advice so that you can make the best decisions for yourself.

Sign up below for a free copy of our e-book on postpartum care, plus 20% off of your next booking!

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