A Rare and Needed Service: Providing Postpartum Care by Providing Skilled Health Coaching Services to New Mothers
Just under 4 million babies are born in the United States each year (1), approximately 700,000 in the UK (2), and over 300,000 in Australia (3). In total, 130 million babies are born in the world every year! (4)
After having a baby, the healthcare focus generally shifts from the pregnant woman to the baby. Immediately the focus is on infant health, feeding, and sleeping habits. Often maternal recovery is just expected to happen on its own
Unfortunately, many women don’t just recover on their own.
Many women experience pelvic floor dysfunction after birth. The prevalence of pelvic floor disorders varies with the number of times a woman has given birth: 12.8 percent for women who have never given birth, 18.4 percent of women who have one child, 24.6 percent of women who have two children, and 32.4 percent for women who have three or more children.(5)
Postpartum thyroiditis affects about 4 to 10 percent of women during the first year after giving birth. (6) In many cases, without proper nutrition, supplements, stress reduction, and support, this autoimmune condition can become permanent, and often recurs with subsequent pregnancies.
For new mothers at risk for thyroid dysfunction, simply having this issue is predictive of being at high risk for thyroid health issues in the future (7), so proper thyroid and immune system care immediately postpartum is essential, including addressing stress, sleep, nutrient deficiencies, and hormonal recovery before engaging in intense exercise.
Postpartum depression and other mood disorders affect approximately 950,000 women each year. (8) Again, without intervention, often these issues don’t just resolve on their own.
Back and pelvic pain are often thought to resolve on their own after about 3 months postpartum, but of the 33% of postpartum women who were classified with lumbopelvic pain; 40% reported moderate to severe disability, which did not just magically recover.(9)
Clearly, postpartum care is an underserved market. With approximately 130 million women giving birth each year, and with a conventional medical system that does little to support postpartum recovery beyond the 6-week check-up for severe issues like infection, women are suffering in silence while doing the tremendously difficult work of caring for infants and young children.
Health coaches can play an important role in postpartum care. Specifically, women need help with the foundational aspects of health and navigating their implementation in the context of busy lives – caring for young children, working (nearly 70% of women with young children work outside of the home), and trying to recover physically.
What are some strategies for health coaches to support new mothers?
Creating meal plans for recovery. With significant physical and emotional stressors to overcome, new mothers need nourishment – but they often don’t have time to meal plan, grocery shop, or cook. Creating meal plans and providing coaching services or group coaching programs to support women to receive support from spouses, hired support, teenagers, friends, or mother’s helpers can teach women how to navigate the recovery process while avoiding reliance on convenience foods, processed foods, or take-out meals too often.
New mothers need specific nutrients for healing including amino acids and Vitamin C for soft tissue recovery, Vitamins B6, B12, and folate to reduce inflammation, cruciferous vegetables and their metabolites – such as DIM – to improve liver function to metabolize pregnancy hormones, and omega-3 fatty acids to support their infant’s brain development and to reduce inflammatory pain.
As a postpartum care focused health coach, you can provide education and the skilled coaching that goes along with supporting new mothers to manage their unique nutritional needs.
Educating new mothers on safe movement and sleep for postpartum hormonal, pelvic floor and core recovery. While many new mothers might be concerned with losing the baby weight, educating moms on balancing exercise with rest, and helping them to understand various kinds of evidence-based exercise from mindful movement to HIIT and their impacts on hormonal balance and core and pelvic floor health is key in this population.
There is no one-size-fits-all exercise plan for new mothers, but incorporating an understanding of hormonal recovery is key to supporting moms to design the right exercise and recovery program for them.
Postpartum stress management education is rarely discussed in the 6-week ob/GYN postpartum appointment.
New mothers are at high risk for anxiety and depression, yet very few have been educated on strategies for stress management, visioning, and goal setting (so that the new mother has some agency over her transition and the new goals that the transition may bring), boundary setting, mindfulness, meditation strategies, mindful movement, sleep, reducing sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, eating (and absorbing) enough essential amino acids to make adequate neurotransmitters, and more.
Creating safe spaces for connection among new mothers. The transformation to motherhood is often surprisingly challenging and lonely. While providing new mothers with education on nutrients, movement, hormone shifts, sleep, and stress management is helpful, new mothers really need skilled coaches to create safe spaces for their stories to be heard. They need someone to mindfully listen to their challenges and celebrations.
They need skilled support to help them to set goals to navigate through their “new mom transformation.” And, they need compassionate coaches to hold them accountable for self-care, getting necessary support, and creating boundaries around their time and energy now that they have one or more children to care for, in addition to many or all of their prior responsibilities.
All of the education in the world, will not help new mothers to navigate this transformation without the support and expertise of a coaching relationship or group coaching container.
More health coaches are needed to specialize in postpartum care.
Fortunately, I am pleased to announce that some of our Women’s Health Coach Certification graduates are starting to fill this important need! I want to show you what some of our graduates are up to. I hope it inspires you to consider focusing your health coach practice on postpartum care.
Meet Heba Shaheed… She and I sat down recently to discuss her new program, Mother Nurture.
I am thrilled to see our graduates out in the world making an important impact in the lives of new mothers all over the world!