Having the right team in your circle during pregnancy is essential—you want to be surrounded by the right people to help you through this special (and transitional) time in your life. Chances are you’ve already started the search for an OB/GYN or midwife, but we talked to other pregnancy and postpartum care experts throughout Dallas-Fort Worth for insight on their services and when to recruit them for your team.
What they do: Like OBs, midwives are medically trained and provide wellness exams and prenatal care, but they typically look after the mother’s overall wellbeing throughout pregnancy and offer more holistic support. Midwifery care has been linked to lower C-section rates, and moms-to-be appreciate the autonomy they have over their birth plan. “We have increased satisfaction because women are typically able to achieve the birth that they desire—if they are truly wanting to have a natural childbirth, they know that we’re going to support that,” says Summer Okimoto, a certified nurse-midwife who attends deliveries at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. “We desire to meet our clients needs, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually as well.”
When to call: Between eight and 10 weeks. “Sometimes when [a woman] gets that first pregnancy test that’s positive, and she’s like, ‘I don’t know what to do [or] where to go,’ we’ll bring them in,” says Okimoto. Her practice, Acclaim Nurse-Midwives, offers these confirmation-of-pregnancy visits.
Ask about: Their education and approach to childbirth. Certified nurse-midwives are licensed nurses with master’s degrees who may work at hospitals or have hospital privileges, whereas licensed midwives complete a state-approved training course and attend deliveries at homes and birthing centers.
What they do: Use very thin needles to reduce pain and stress. Though research on the subject is far from conclusive, multiple studies, including a 2010 meta-analysis published in the journal BJOG, suggest that acupuncture could reduce labor pain. Dr. Jane Liu of Jade Acupuncture Clinic in Dallas and Frisco, explains that acupuncture increases blood circulation and decreases stress and anxiety. “This in turn helps create a healthier environment for baby growing, mother laboring and mental care after giving birth,” Liu says. Besides, the appointments are a chance for Mom to get away for much-needed “me” time.
When to call: Liu suggests that women with high-risk pregnancies (women over 40, say, or who have a history of pregnancy loss) recruit an acupuncturist for miscarriage prevention during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. She adds that any mom-to-be can seek out an acupuncturist to prep for labor after week 32.
Ask about: Their training and experience—you want an acupuncturist with training in obstetrics specifically.
Provide emotional support and counseling for everything that new mommyhood throws your way: prenatal and postpartum depression, traumatic birth and general anxiety about pregnancy and childbirth. Plus, they can coordinate therapeutic care with OB/GYNs and hospitals. “Having a resource where you can be heard and know you’re not alone goes a long way toward alleviating the guilt and stress that results from mood disorders,” says Katie Sardone, a licensed psychologist and founder of Behavioral Health Dallas. “Mood disorders don’t only affect the person experiencing them, but the entire family unit.” While individual counseling is most common, therapy can also be conducted between married couples, families or in support groups.
When to call: As soon as you feel less than your best. While hormonal changes are to be expected during pregnancy and the postpartum period (hello, baby blues), depressive episodes are not a war that Mom should fight on her own. In need of some relief or insight? Sardone recommends setting up a consultation with a mental health professional to create an appropriate therapeutic plan as soon as possible.
Ask about: Options beyond psychotherapy. Inquire about licensed professional counselors (LPCs) for lower-cost care. Maternal psychiatrists work with moms to design a medication based treatment that will not interfere with breastfeeding.
BIRTH PLAN SPECIALIST
What they do: Educate women about their childbirth options at home or in a hospital, as well as holistic labor options like water births and hypnobirths. Specialists can also provide labor prep classes, resources and assistance securing other members of your team (like doulas and wellness practitioners). “Preparing your mind and body for birth is key,” says Cheryl Johnson, a certified childbirth educator, owner of the wellness center OmBalance, and Ayurvedic doula affiliated with the HypnoBirthing Institute. A birth plan specialist takes away some of the uncertainty surrounding childbirth and outlines your preferences for pre-labor examinations, birthing techniques and the birthing environment (including who’s in the room). They will also help communicate to doctors and midwives your wishes regarding pain medications, inductions and C-sections and what to do with the placenta and umbilical cord.
When to call: Johnson recommends that moms bring someone on around 25 weeks. She adds that in the postpartum period, care ranges from a single visit to a consistent plan over the six weeks post-delivery. “Aside from treatments, we talk meal planning, teas and supplements when needed,” she explains. “Once the six weeks are complete, we look ahead to incorporating movement and getting out of the house with other mamas.”
Ask about: The benefits and potential risks for each labor option. Your birth plan specialist should be honest with you while prioritizing your wishes.
Services: Emotional and physical support along with education, resources and help creating a birth plan.
What they do: Though doulas come in many types, birth doulas provide emotional and physical support along with education and resources to help Mom advocate for the care she wants. Moms who use doulas report reduced C-section rates and a more comfortable labor, and they appreciate the consistent support—doulas are there every step of the way. “Doulas build a relationship with the families that they serve,” explains Maria Pokluda, certified doula and founder of Great Expectations Doulas. “They get to know their hopes and dreams, what they want for their birth experience [and concerns]. Then they bridge the gap to what they need to get to those places—facilitating communication to care providers, being a bridge to other resources, even mom’s groups. They use that relationship to match the parent’s needs.” When to call: Depends on the mother’s needs, Pokluda says. She’s had mothers call as soon as they find out they’re pregnant, to as late as going into labor. “Typically we get hired when mothers are in their second trimester,” she shares—but if you have a particular professional in mind, it’s best to book well in advance before their calendar fills up.
Ask about: Postpartum services. Postpartum doulas often provide practical help like cleaning house and running errands, as well as breastfeeding support and establishing a sleep schedule.
Placenta Encapsulation Specialist
What they do: Turn the placenta into ingestible capsules. Thousands of years of anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming the placenta balances mood, reduces postpartum depression and increases milk supply and energy. “There’s a lot of iron in the placenta. You lose blood in birth and the placenta is a way to replace some of that iron,” explains Pokluda, who offers placenta encapsulation along with her doula services.
When to call: Later in the pregnancy—Pokluda suggests 36 weeks. “We send out a transportation kit for people to take to their place of birth,” she explains.
Ask about: Their certifications. Placenta encapsulation specialists should be trained in three areas: placenta encapsulation, obviously, but also food safety and handling bloodborne pathogens.
What they do: Provide information and support on breastfeeding. According to Nuala Murphy, a lactation consultant at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, breastfeeding promotes good health and protects the baby’s gut against infections, bacteria and viruses— illnesses babies are more vulnerable to in the first few weeks of life. “The standard is that babies will be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life,” shares Murphy. But as good as that sounds, breastfeeding doesn’t come easy for every mom and baby. A lactation consultant can help you prepare for breastfeeding and offer practical assistance when baby just won’t latch.
When to call: First or second trimester. “That would be a good time get a general overview [on breastfeeding],” Murphy says.
Ask about: Their certification (not all lactation consultants are certified) and their parenting philosophy—you want a consultant who’s willing to work with your goals.