Did you know that acupuncture can bring relief for a lot of common discomforts in pregnancy and postpartum, including morning sickness, headaches, and swelling? Learn more about the benefits of acupuncture for pregnant and postpartum women below. We are excited that our new team member, Ashley Grandkoski, LMT, L.Ac. can bring acupuncture and massage to our clients right in the comfort of their own home!
Benefits and Uses of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in Pregnancy Care
By Ashley Grandkoski, LMT, L.Ac.
Though its often not the first thing people think of when they think of pregnancy care, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have a long history of use for aiding in and preparing for conception, alleviating symptoms and problems during pregnancy, and helping with labor and the postpartum period. The great thing about using acupuncture during pregnancy is that it is very gentle and safe and has virtually no harmful side-effects for mama or baby. It can be used at any stage of pregnancy, and increases the overall well-being of the patient while also addressing many problems and discomforts.
Here are some of the things acupuncture is most often used for:
Nausea and vomiting – a common, but miserable side-effect of pregnancy, nausea is sometimes hard to shake! A few regular acupuncture sessions can help control nausea, bringing it down a notch or two and making symptoms much more manageable.
Pain - acupuncture is well-known for being able to alleviate pain of all types. From normal aches and pains of pregnancy to sciatica and carpal tunnel, this can help! I often use bodywork as a helpful adjunct to acupuncture treatment.
Breech presentation - there is a well-established, very simple protocol that has good rates of turning breech, especially when used before the last few weeks of pregnancy. It is totally non-invasive and doesn’t even require the use of needles!
Pre-birth treatments – these are a wonderful way to prepare your body and mind for labor! Weekly treatments from 37 weeks on help prepare the body for birth by balancing energy, calming the mind and emotions, helping open the pelvis, ripen the cervix, and get energy moving in the low belly. Reports also suggest that these treatments decrease complications during labor and may even shorten its duration.
Labor stimulation - a gentle, easy approach to jump-starting labor, this has become a popular method to try for post-due mamas, and those approaching the window for medical induction. It doesn’t force the body, but can be the little nudge it needs to get things moving.
There are also many other issues that can be addressed with acupuncture, including:
-constipation and hemorrhoids
-urinary tract infections, acute or chronic
-carpal tunnel, sciatica and other nerve impingements
-fatigue and insomnia
-anxiety, depression and emotional swings
-vaginal irritation and yeast infections
-high blood pressure
-stabilizing and supporting pregnancy for someone with a risk for miscarriage
In addition to all these symptoms, acupuncture and massage are just great for you! They help decrease stress, calm emotions, increase immune function and generally nourish the body/mind and spirit. Who doesn’t need that?
Here are some questions you might have about acupuncture, along with some answers:
Q: How many treatments will I need to see results?
A: It usually takes more than one treatment for acupuncture to be really effective. It works cumulatively, building up its effects as treatments progress. Some things will only take a few treatments to resolve, but others may be longer term issues that take some time and commitment to truly get better. After the first session, I will do my best to give you an idea of how your condition is likely to respond, and how long it might take to see results.
Q: Do the needles hurt?
A: The needles used for acupuncture are extremely small and thin, and generally cause very little discomfort. Most often, you feel a small poke as the needle passes through the skin, but not much else. Some patients report feeling interesting sensations of energy moving, pressure, or a tingling/bubbling sensation. I am always careful to work within your tolerance level, and will stop or adjust if anything feels too strong or painful. In addition, acupuncturists are trained to use many methods other than needles for specific kinds of therapies. These other methods are often used during treatments in addition to acupuncture and can be used in place of needles for sensitive patients when needed.
Q: Is acupuncture safe, especially during pregnancy?
A: Yes! Acupuncture is extremely safe, and can be used at all stages of pregnancy. Acupuncturists go through extensive training, and are well-versed in cautions and contraindications for pregnancy.
Q: What can I expect in a treatment?
A: Normally, a treatment session involves an intake interview, where your medical history and health concerns are shared, and a treatment, which could involve acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, and/or massage (all treatments are discussed before being administered, of course!). Lifestyle and dietary recommendations are sometimes also given. In addition, Chinese herbs may be suggested or prescribed if they are appropriate. Almost all patients report feeling very relaxed at the end of the session.
Q: Is it necessary to have a western diagnosis for a condition before seeking treatment?
A: No! Chinese medicine has its own unique system of diagnosis, involving feeling the pulses and looking at the tongue, that allows a practitioner to treat virtually any condition without any kind of western diagnosis. That being said, however, certain conditions are, of course, important to discuss with a doctor, midwife or other health professional.
Q: What is unique about a treatment with me (Ashley)?
A: I have a particular passion for working with pregnant women and new mothers, and have dedicated much time and research to learning about how to best care for them with Chinese medicine. I also often incorporate bodywork into my sessions to aid in relaxation and add a nurturing touch to all my treatments. In addition to having a sweet and calm presence, I am truly dedicated to holism in life and health and strive to treat patients on every level, meeting and supporting them wherever they are on their journey towards wellness.
by Sophie Grow
Eight years ago, I was excited to attend my first birth, the birth of my niece. Now, I realize that back then I had NO IDEA how to support a pregnant woman, let alone a woman in labor.
I was 24 years old and I remember I had just gotten my first iPhone. It was a generation 3 and I was really excited to take pictures of my new baby niece. I was young and hadn’t had children, but I had been a nanny for many years and was skilled in childcare. I thought I knew what a mother was experiencing. I thought she was just tired and a bit sore. She’s just tired, right?
I visited my sister-in-law in the hospital as a mere spectator. I didn’t know about supporting a mom with supportive words to bear witness for her experience. I never connected with her. I thought she had all she needed. I thought that since she was a strong independent woman, she didn’t need support.
She came home after an unplanned cesarean and collected her baby from the NICU. Knowing what I know now, this transition time is very critical for maternal mental health. Women and their babies need a support network of nurses, doctors, pediatricians, and county nurses to compliment family and friend support. If there are holes or delays in that safety net, mothers and their babies can suffer.
But I didn’t know that. I thought once they were home from the hospital, everything was fine with my sister-in-law, her husband, and their sweet baby. I made a mistake that so many well-meaning and supportive family members do: I made the assumption that my sister-in-law was too strong to struggle and that having a baby isn’t that hard once the birth is over. I was uninformed and ignorant of the complexities and scope of postpartum recovery. She didn't show me her vulnerability during that time because witnessing it was something I had not earned. I thought I was there for her, but in truth I was critical of her. Why does it look so hard for her? Why is she struggling? Isn’t having a baby such a gift? Why does she look so burdened? She’s so lucky. I was jealous she had started a family. I thought I wouldn’t struggle like that when I had my babies. I. WAS. WRONG.
Recently, after listening to my sister-in-laws tell her birth story again in her own words and reflecting on her postpartum experience as a professional postpartum doula, I now see the holes in the support I offered her then. (The details of her birth that are shared here are done so with her permission).
Now I know that birth isn’t just a physical trial, it’s an emotional and mental trial as well. The marathon of birth doesn't end at delivery of the baby.
If I could go back and support this woman who I admire, who is such an important part of my life, I would know the right questions to ask. I would listen, validate, and support her without judgement, and without making assumptions about her experience.
I would feed her more,
Let her rest more,
Help her breast feed,
Help her relax,
Help her more with chores,
And be there to help more with the practicalities of a c-section recovery.
I would know that physical recovery and adjustment to parenthood takes longer than 6 weeks. Most women feel it takes a full year.
I would pick up on the trauma in her story and acknowledge it. I would give her numbers for the county health nurse and contacts for postpartum mental health support professionals. I would encourage her to go to the mom and baby groups, knowing she is a social person and needs friends who are dealing with similar struggles. I would tell her about our perinatal group support meetings and encourage her to go, whether or not she felt like she had a diagnosable postpartum mood disorder.
I would tell her that she was doing a wonderful job. I would smile and rub her feet while she played with her baby. I would sit with her when she is feeling her lowest low. I would tell her she’s good enough and deserves love and light. I would tell her it’s normal to feel pain and sadness and loneliness. I would tell her she would be well soon with time and support.
Now, I know I can truly provide non-judgmental compassionate support for where the mother is in her journey without needing to change it or fix it for her.
I can work to provide peace of mind.
The truth is, new mothers DO know what they want and need from others. It's just hard to ask sometimes. Sometimes accepting help is hard, as well. As a postpartum doula it’s my job to help her pause long enough to recognize her own needs, and to help make them get met as best I can.
I bring a hot cup of coffee in a clean mug to mom while she sits on the couch and snuggles baby. I make sure her favorite nursing shirts and bras are clean and folded. The kitchen counters are cleared and sinks emptied. Her fridge is filled with prepped snacks and meals. Her stomach is full of nutritious food and her body replenished with fresh water. The baby’s diaper is changed and she’s bundled in a swaddle. Baby sleeping beside me while I fold laundry. Mom rests in her bed, or showers alone, or relaxes by watching her favorite show. I show mom and dad how to bathe baby. I make play dough with big sisters. I organize the outgrown baby clothes while playing Legos with siblings. I demonstrate how to bottle feed or breast pump. I help prep a back-to-work plan.
But most importantly, I listen to the mother. I listen to the father/partner. I listen to the siblings. I listen to the stories. I am present for them and model how to be present in the gift that is the moment rushing by us.
What's up with all the buzz about tongue ties? Read on to find out the basics of why this topic might matter to you and your baby.
Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia, is a physical condition that limits the movement of the tongue. Between 1-12% of infants are born with this condition (Ghaheri, 2016). This can occur near the front of the tongue (anterior tongue tie), or the rear of the tongue (posterior tongue tie). Because the mechanisms of breastfeeding rely on a vacuum system within the baby’s mouth, not a “stripping” motion of the baby’s tongue as previously thought, having an infant with a tongue tie or lip tie could interfere with having a successful breastfeeding experience. While tongue tie is only one of many possible reasons for a challenge in breastfeeding, if any of the following problems present themselves during early breastfeeding, the possibility of a tongue tie should be assessed by a qualified professional:
According to Ricke et al, “The presence of tongue tie triples the risk of weaning in the first week of life.” (Ghaheri, 2016). For parents who have a goal of continuing breastfeeding, but are experiencing any of the challenges listed above, it is important to rule out an anatomical reason for why those breastfeeding challenges are occurring. In other words, many breastfeeding challenges are common and can occur for various reasons, and tongue/lip tie may be one of them. According to Dr. Ghaheri, all published studies on the subject find that after tongue ties have been identified and corrected surgically, breastfeeding outcomes improved for both the lactating person and the infant.
When looking for a provider to assess for possible tongue tie/lip tie and perform a revision if indicated, the following are considered best practices: 1. The provider will fully release the ties, including posterior tongue tie and lip tie if necessary (release of an anterior tongue tie without release of the posterior tie will rarely lead to improvement in breastfeeding). 2. The provider is supportive and knowledgeable of breastfeeding and works closely with IBCLCs. 3. The provider does not use general anesthesia on infants.
For lactating parents who have the goal of breastfeeding, it is important that they feel supported in their goal. As postpartum doulas, we help families find and explore all the resources available that may help them reach their goal. This is important not only for the baby’s health, but also because we know that women who wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t have two times greater the risk of developing postpartum depression compared to women who wanted to breastfeed and were able to do so successfully for as long as desired (Maternal Child Health Journal, Aug 2014, as presented by Ghaheri, 2016).
If you have questions or concerns about your baby, talk to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). And, if you have concerns with the information you've been given and are not feeling like your breastfeeding struggles have been resolved, find a second opinion. Our postpartum doulas and certified lactation counselor can help you find the answers and resources you are looking for. Our goal is to help YOU reach your goals regarding feeding your baby and preserving your own wellbeing and mental health.
Presentation. Tongue/Lip Tie and The Impact on Breastfeeding. Bobby Ghaheri, MD. February 26, 2016, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, Corvallis, Oregon.
Are you someone who has skills and expertise that would benefit new parents but don't know how to market those skills and reach the people who want to learn from you?
Do you love supporting others through the transitions of pregnancy and birth?
We are now accepting Letters of Intent from people interested in joining our team.
Proud Mama Support Services is a growing full-service doula agency serving Corvallis and the greater Willamette Valley. Our mission is to provide top-quality support to families as they transition to life with a new baby. We are inviting letters of intent from compassionate and professional birth doulas, postpartum doulas, newborn care specialists, lactation professionals, childbirth and parenting educators, and massage therapists to join the Proud Mama Support Services team. We are committed to providing communities in the Willamette Valley with top-quality perinatal support, and elevating the role of doulas and other birth support professionals in the eyes of the public, medical professionals, and doulas themselves. We are looking for the right doulas and birth support professionals who share this vision to join our team.
What we offer birth services professionals:
What we are looking for:
The following requirements do not need to be met before applying, but will need to be met before accepting clients through Proud Mama Support Services:
Please submit a letter of intent which succinctly addresses the following questions. Include two professional references. You may also include a resume or curriculum vitae.
1. Why do you want to provide perinatal support to families?
2. What areas of perinatal support interest you? What services do you feel you are currently qualified to provide? Are there areas where you would like to expand your knowledge and experience as you grow professionally as a birth support professional?
3. If you have already completed a training, please include the name of your training organization, name of trainer, and date of training.
4. What is your availability for working with PMSS? Are you looking to do birth support work on a full-time or part-time basis? Are there times during the year when your ability to be on call or take clients changes?
5. What are your goals as a birth support professional for 2018? What attracts you to working with Proud Mama Support Services as an independent contractor?
6. What does “complete support” of families mean to you?
7. The nature of birth work requires, at times, last-minute availability and responding to clients’ requests for your presence with very little notice. Tell us about the systems you have in place or will have in place to ensure that you have this flexibility in your schedule.
Please submit a letter of intent and contact information for two professional references to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Letter of Intent- (Full Name).”
The deadline to apply is October 15, 2017. Offers will be made by November 15, 2017. Questions can be directed to email@example.com. For more information about Proud Mama Support Services, visit our website, www.proudmamasupportservices.com or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/proudmamaservices and Instagram @proudmamasupportservices.
Download the application details below:
Help us raise awareness and reduce the stigma around maternal mental health and perinatal mood disorders. We need your help!
Climb Out of the Darkness® is the world’s largest event raising awareness of maternal mental illnesses like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety & OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis, bipolar/peripartum onset, and pregnancy depression and anxiety.
Our local Team Oregon-Corvallis Climb Out of the Darkness will be gathering on June 17, 2017 from 9-11am at Walnut Barn, Martin Luther King, Jr. Park and will feature a kid-friendly, stroller-friendly, all ages and abilities "climb" up the hill behind Walnut Barn. You can find our event on Facebook here! Please share and invite your friends to come, too!
Climb Out of the Darkness® is held on or near the longest day of the year annually to help shine the most light on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The event features mothers and others across the globe joining together to climb mountains and hike trails to represent their symbolic rise out of the darkness of maternal mental illness and into the light of hope and recovery.
Please check out these videos from Climb Out of the Darkness from the past few years to get a feel for just how inspiring and powerful this event is.
Help us shine the light of hope with our words and our advocacy efforts so that our fellow mothers/parents will receive better information and better treatment, and their new families will get off to the healthy and strong start they deserve.
This year, 75% of the funds raised by our team will remain in our local community and will be used to fund a peer support group, led by PSI-trained facilitators.
Ways you can support and participate:
ALL DONATIONS GO TO POSTPARTUM SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
To contribute in-kind donations or to become an official sponsor of our local Climb Out of the Darkness, contact Rachel Brinker at 541-714-5859 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we can make a big difference in the lives of women and families. Will you join us?
Postpartum Support International is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization EIN #77-0196208
Contact PSI with questions at email@example.com
Postpartum Support International (PSI) 6706 SW 54th Avenue Portland OR 97219
Today we are honored to bring you a very personal story of motherhood from our very own Postpartum and Infant Care doula, Sophie Grow.
It is no secret among my friends and, honestly, lots of strangers I come across that I had a beyond normal postpartum recovery. Over the years I have seriously outed my story because it felt like such a burden to hold it in. I was so alone. You see, I had a beyond normal postpartum recovery and my baby was beyond normal.
At first, it was hard to walk into rooms with friends and acquaintances who knew my story and the story of my daughter. It felt like my heart leaping into my throat like that time in high school before I performed on stage. My head was pounding. I felt hot. I went into full body sweats. It was hard to control my facial reactions. The tension in my body increased while my trust in others wavered.
Could they still like me if they knew my story? My story is their nightmare.
At the very least I knew they would all pity me. Feel sorry for me. And you know what? They did. Sometimes it felt awful. Sometimes I would somehow end up consoling them. I wanted to be strong and look strong too. All too often I felt like a puddle though. Someone needing a shoulder or someone looking like they were trying too hard to look strong. Did they see right through me? Did they judge me? What do they say about me?
After a year of my postpartum struggles both externally and internally, I finally saw a professional counselor. I’ve seen her almost every week for nearly 5 years. With her I realized I had a gift. My worst fears robbed me of the present moments. I started to realize I had been missing out. I did all the personal work. The mental health work that so many talk about and yet have not been raised with the tools to process. I knew that for me and my baby I had to heal my heart.
You see. My story was a nasty c-word that most people have a very difficult time talking about, especially with children.
My baby was born with cancer.
This past Sunday was National Cancer Survivors Day. We celebrated with a 5k and attending a giant celebration. I asked my daughter what she remembered. She said, “Nothing. I was just a little baby.” That sentence pretty much sums up the gut punch it is to hear that an infant is diagnosed with cancer. I told her I was so glad cancer did not take her away from me. She said cheerfully, “I guess I just had a lot more living to do.”
Me too, girl. Me too.
So my baby had cancer. She sailed through surgery and was monitored closely at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for years. She never needed chemotherapy or radiation. It was a miracle, but my invisible emotional illnesses really prevented me from celebrating for many years out of fear. I agonized over every diaper and cough. Could her cancer be back? This went on for years. It waxed and waned, never leaving.
I had support from a Benton County Health Nurse who helped me with all my breastfeeding issues that meant pumping every two hours and supplementally feeding A LOT of formula for a baby that seemed to be turning all she got into her pharmacy to fight cancer. I frequently get asked if breastmilk saved my baby since she did not need chemo or radiation. Interestingly, no one asks if formula saved her life, yet it was equally important to her growth.
And after all that pumping stress I felt so inadequate. A failure. I did not feel bonded. I couldn’t love my baby fully for fear of her dying soon. I could barely function. I had a short fuse. I had anxiety attacks, though I didn’t know that’s what they were until later. I was isolated by the whole experience as I didn’t take my baby anywhere she could get sick. I hopped on down to the vaccination station because my baby was that baby that herd immunity would protect. I ate organically and fed her organic. I micromanaged everything so I could feel in control. Perfectionism and OCD stole lots of joy from that first year, but I know that my controlling nature helped me cope.
My anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, and OCD started to develop. I had feelings of Post Traumatic Stress Anxiety Disorder. You name it- I had it. Yet, at my counseling appointments I was in a safe place. Never labeled and always support non-judgmentally. Friends hailed me as brave for seeking mental health support. Little did they know the lifeline it was to me. I dragged my broken pieces behind me into treatment and dragged them back home again. Over time I built myself up out of kindness for myself and all my suffering. It took time and compassion (ie not perfectionism) to build myself into a stronger better version of myself. One with an attitude of gratitude and a heart with a passionate purpose for serving others.
So why share my story if it was so painful? Why dredge it up? I’ve healed. Over the years I have shared my story so much that now it doesn’t haunt me. Instead of hide, I overshared. I was raw vulnerability with my story.
The results? I made a lot of people sad at first. They squirm. They apologize. They gasp. They nod. But you know what? They always listen. And I started to notice that. Maybe I knew how to talk about cancer and could teach those that listened. People just don’t know how to talk about cancer sometimes.
I would speak plainly, while wondering if they thought I was attention seeking. But I knew better. My story is an inspiring one. One that is a parent’s nightmare that turned into a miracle. Today I shared the story of my daughter’s cancer out of celebration void of fear. I have done some healing from my fears of loss, inadequacy, and shame. I know that every person who listened helped me get to this day of true peace in myself. I’m still a work in progress but I’m stronger now.
Now it’s my turn to listen and witness stories.
Now I am a Postpartum and Infant Care Doula.
I recognize families who have beyond normal circumstances, who fear judgment, fear making mistakes, fear the unknown, and fear being a failure.
I hold their broken pieces in my hands and cradle them with support and nourishment.
I validate to them that, “HELL YES! This is so unfair. It’s so damn unfair.”
I comfort them when they wonder if they are making the right choices.
I soothe the moments of loss and suffering.
I bring them to the present to celebrate the wins, no matter how small.
I feed their bodies and provide help so they can rest their weary bodies to heal.
As a doula, I don’t fix the problem for them. I know it’s not my job to erase their experience, I cannot erase time.
Because I suffered, I am stronger, wiser, more compassionate, less judgmental, more fun-loving, more forgiving, and I am much, much kinder to myself because I suffered so.
Without saying as much, I communicate to a client that they too, with their broken pieces, can be rebuilt into the strongest version of themselves than they could dream of.
I remind parents that they are strong when they feel their weakest.
I do my job with my whole heart because I know from experience that it takes time and self compassion to heal.
I often get asked what does a doula do? Well I can tell you this:
I bear witness to the suffering and the stories people hold inside.
And I never ever judge them.
Because I am them.
I am a safe place because I too have suffered.
And all I want my clients to know is…
I see you and you are cared for.
You are beautiful and beyond normal like me.
People who choose to do work around birth are passionate. They are compassionate. They have strong values and strongly held beliefs, and as much as we ("The Birth World") get portrayed as a cohesive unit, we don't all believe, subscribe to, or aspire to the same things or the same values. People in the birth world, just like every other profession, bring to their work the privileges, biases, and prejudices they hold. Birth work is not a vacuum away from society. Rather, it is deeply embedded within the fabric of our society. How we give birth matters, who we dismiss or include in "the birth world" matters, and who we uphold as leaders matters.
Recently, something Ina May Gaskin said in Texas (starting around 46:00 in the video) brings to light some long-standing issues of racism within birth work. Rather than rephrasing what has already been said perfectly, I will direct you to listen to voices that matter the most on this topic. Please listen. Trust Black Women.
On Ina May Gaskin and Getting Called Out -- Sam Olivia
Petition to ICAN and Texas Birth Network
Erricka Sharmayne's words: "Tasha Portley's question is between the 46:00-47:00 mark for anyone who doesn't want see the entire video. Her [Ina May Gaskin's] response was very covert. Essentially she said poor people that eat well and work hard have better outcomes, then she goes on to talk about the black midwife in Alabama who was religious and her client base was religious so they had less stress.
Issues with this are that a black Woman who is a college graduate, with health insurance, active, and eats well has worse outcomes than a white woman with a hs diploma. Also, the black midwife from Alabama was a black woman. When black people get Care from a caring black person they will experience more connectedness calm through their experience, reducing their stress.
Lastly, the current research shows that health disparities between races are increasing, and that racism in the health care system is plays a part in the outcomes."
*Update*: Ina May Gaskin has issued a statement of apology for her response to Tasha Portley's question.
"It has come to my attention that my answer to a Texas Conference Q & A question has caused a great deal of hurt, and was insulting and demeaning to many, especially Women, and People, of Color. While the intent behind my answer was anything but racist or demeaning, I understand that impact is more important than intent, and I personally offer my genuine and deepest apologies. I have spent a great many years of my career shining the spotlight on the massive racial disparities in maternity care, and my comment at the conference is not a true reflection of my belief, and what I know to be true - that racism, and its denial, are the true root of the egregious inequalities in maternal and infant healthcare for people of color. I'm still learning, and still growing as a person and as a professional, and I am grateful to the many Women of Color who have offered their support, and continued education. It will not fall on deaf ears. - Ina May"
The best way to listen and grow now is to heed the demands set forth by women who have been harmed by the continued racism within the birth community, which they most recently have outlined in the petition (link above).
Changes in the current health insurance marketplace are likely coming. Here's our summary of what is currently offered under the Affordable Care Act for pregnancy and the postpartum period, and what changes will likely occur under the new administration.
Breastfeeding benefits under ObamaCare:
1. Health insurance must cover the cost of a breast pump.
2. Breastfeeding support and counseling must be covered by health insurance before and after birth, and must be covered for the duration of breastfeeding.
3. The ACA amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to protect breastfeeding moms who need to pump at work. The ACA required that employers with at least 50 employees must allow the time and a space--"other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers and the public"--for a mother to express breast milk for the first year after the birth of her baby. The law only applies to hourly wage employees, not salaried workers.
What might change:
1. Before the current healthcare laws, pregnancy could be classified as a pre-existing condition, and therefore maternity care and childbirth coverage could be denied by insurers. Currently, maternity care and childbirth must be covered by all insurance plans, even if the pregnancy began before coverage started.
2. The birth of a baby means that you are eligible for a special enrollment period, meaning you can enroll your newborn in a health insurance plan at any time and coverage will begin from the date of birth, rather than having to wait for the open enrollment period.
3. Medicaid expanded under the Affordable Care Act, making it accessible for a broader range of incomes and circumstances. Under Medicaid, a long list of prenatal and postpartum care is available without cost to the individual, including: birth control and family planning services, screening for gestational diabetes, HIV and sexually transmitted infection screening and counseling, interpersonal violence screening, and breastfeeding support.
4. The ACA put limits on out-of-pocket expenses, meaning that high-risk pregnancies and infants who need hospitalization and intensive care are less likely to create insurmountable cost burdens for families.
5. Lower- to moderate- income families are eligible for premium tax credits if they do not qualify for Medicaid or for coverage through an employer and they have coverage under a qualified health plan. Under the ACA, if a woman becomes pregnant and is therefore eligible for Medicaid coverage, she will not lose her premium tax credit.
What might change:
1. All qualified health plans must include family planning and contraceptive care at no cost to the individual.
What might change:
Other benefits specific to women that might change:
1. Well-woman check-ups, and preventative screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer must be covered with no cost-sharing (no deductible, co-pay, etc.)
2. "Gender rating" (charging women higher premiums than men for their health insurance) is prohibited under the ACA.
3. Mental health benefits, including treatment of postpartum mood disorders such as postpartum depression and anxiety, postpartum OCD, and PTSD, are included in "essential health benefits" and must be covered by qualified health plans. Previous mental health issues cannot be grounds for denying coverage, and for most plans there can be no caps on the number of covered visits for psychotherapy.
Maternal health matters to us all. Let us hope that the majority of American women have access to quality affordable healthcare, including maternity care, childbirth coverage, routine preventative screenings, and mental healthcare in the future.
--written by Rachel Brinker
One of the wondrous--and sometimes terrifying--things about birth is that so much of it is completely out of our control.
Sometimes a birth goes exactly how the parents wish for it to go, and sometimes it doesn't. One of the most common struggles we hear as postpartum doulas is that of women who wanted a natural birth but ended up with interventions, medication, or a cesarean. Because they didn't have the "natural" birth they wanted, they feel like they failed somehow. Friends and family will often say, "Well, you and the baby are healthy, that's all that matters."
It's not all that matters. How you feel about your birth has huge impacts on your identity as a mother, and going through a traumatic birth experiences puts you at greater risk for postpartum mood issues.
This failure felt by some women who wanted a "natural" birth but missed out on that experience is something that sometimes gets dismissed and brushed aside in the homebirth and natural birth communities. In order to be seen as legitimate, the focus has been on the benefits of "physiologic" birth (birth without medication or interventions), on the beautiful potential of such a birth, and on the dangers associated with medical interventions. Too often, there has been a one-sided message from the natural birth community, and an us vs. them mentality. When there are just two teams, the Uses and the Thems, there are lots of postpartum women stuck somewhere in the middle--supporting the choice to have a natural birth or a homebirth, but having had some interventions in their own birth--not knowing why they feel like they've suddenly been kicked off the team.
The message that one kind of birth is better than another kind of birth is hurting women.
Many women are left feeling like they failed if their birth didn't match the "natural birth" ideal they were hoping for. This podcast episode from The Longest Shortest Time includes an interview on this very issue with the matriarch of the natural birth movement herself, Ina May Gaskin.
Ina says, "You're not alone if you experienced a lot of pain and you felt like you failed. I mean, there's so many women that feel that way. Maybe it was because of expectations that were on the unrealistic side...That it [a natural birth] would be possible because you did everything right, everything the book told you, and then you still had pain, and you feel like you weren't correctly advised, you know, you were misled somehow."
It impacts women's postpartum experience when they receive the message that if a certain outcome--like an induction, a homebirth transfer, cesarean, use of an epidural, a perineal tear, interventions for your baby, etc.--happens, then they have somehow failed at birth. Ina May herself admits that the messaging of the natural birth community may be contributing to this common feeling of failure. We hope this message shifts and opens up space for ALL women to celebrate their birth experience rather than judge it as a good/natural birth or a failed/medical birth.
No matter what happens during your pregnancy, labor, and postpartum period, here's the bottom line:
Birth is a process, something you move through, largely without control, not something you attain. Birth is not something that you can fail. Your birth was its own process, unique to you and your circumstances.
You were strong. You were amazing. You had reasons for making the decisions you did.
If you hoped for a birth free from all interventions but ended up with, say, an epidural and a cesarean birth, it's ok to feel conflicting emotions about that. It's ok to be disappointed, it's ok to ask questions and process your feelings about what happened. You may also feel relieved, overjoyed, and frankly just tired and glad it's over. All of it is ok and valid.
You were brave. You were beautiful. You were powerful.
You gave birth!
--Written by Rachael Sudhalter
I talked it over with my husband, and we took the leap...we did it. Our first one! There were bumps and bruises, things didn't always go as planned. We went along, making it up as we went, consulting those who had gone before us. It seemed to make our life more seamless, Our new addition fit in perfectly.
Then we had the talk--should we have a second one? Would it work? Could we handle it? We talked it over again with our son. Our family and friends encouraged us and supported us along the way. It would be double the pressure, double the noise, double the work. Could a second one blend into our already busy family? Would it simplify things or make it harder?
We decided. Yes, we want another one.
Our second one came. We now had two! Twice the pressure! Twice the fun! I don't know how we lived so long with just one.
One was great, two was FANTASTIC!
It's been two months now, and I can't imagine my life without them. They fit so nicely in our family.
My husband, son, and I are in love!
Yes, we are the proud owners of TWO Instant Pots.
If you haven't heard of them, check them out. It makes meal preparation with a family SO much easier. Hardboiled eggs in 12 min total. Frozen chicken on your plate in an hour. Rice, 15 min. I heard you can do cheesecake in it, too.
And the BEST part is you don't have to stand there and watch the stove. It is a pressure cooker and crockpot all in one. Dump in ingredients, turn on the right setting, and walk away.
Family life is busy and there is not always time to cook a wholesome meal. The Instant Pot has made it more feasible for my family to eat nutritiously. Having a baby can create some big changes in the way you plan and prepare your meals. As your postpartum doula, I can show you many tips and tricks if you are floundering with meal planning. And if you are an Instant Pot owner, I'll make my favorite recipe for you!
(There are no affiliate links in this post--I just love the Instant Pot!)