The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released new guidelines last month regarding postpartum care. As it turns out, we would serve women better by giving them more than one six week check-up after birth. ACOG referenced an ongoing process of care instead of a single visit.
I couldn’t agree more, and this is a huge step in the right direction in terms of creating a better environment for mothers and families. But there is still a lot of room for improvement. Bringing a baby into the world is serious business: it’s both serious and a business. And as someone in the business of helping families, I can tell you that there are two crucial things that I do for women as a chiropractor in the postpartum period (and we’re not even going to touch on chiropractic care for babies in this post).
Physical adaptations postpartum
The first thing is that I help a woman’s body adapt from a physical standpoint. It is my hope that we’re raising enough awareness through BIRTHFIT and other wonderful organizations to point out that SLOW IS FAST and a woman doesn’t need to be working out right after having a baby. But she does need to be able to move from her bed to the bathroom, and doing so requires some amount of structural competency. The biomechanical changes that happen during pregnancy are vast, and they occur over the length of a pregnancy. But they don’t revert immediately after the placenta is birthed. Instead, a woman’s body has to rediscover its center of gravity and stability after having lost a significant amount of weight and balance in a (relatively) short period of time. As such, part of the continuity of care that’s required postpartum needs to be from a movement/biomechanical standpoint.
Emotional support postpartum
The second thing I do is hold space, which is something a postpartum woman needs. In our office, follow up visits are all 15 minutes long. But the first postpartum visit with one of our existing patients is double that in length. This is for several reasons: we don’t want them to worry about being late if it’s one of their first outings with a new baby; they’ll likely need to nurse or change while in the office (and we want to check baby’s latch anyway!); and we need to allow ample time to just sit and talk with mom. One of the exercises we do in the BIRTHFIT Postpartum Series is encourage women to share their birth story with someone who deserves to hear it. Being fully clothed (though likely with excess bodily fluids about your person) in a place where people care about you and you are welcome to breastfeed or bottle feed without concern is a great place to share your story: the ins and outs, ups and downs, highs and lows.
In a postpartum chiropractic visit, we’ll re-establish a foundation of breath, determine when/how to introduce functional movement, and enhance the body’s biomechanics in order to better support a postpartum healing journey. But we’ll also just listen. Because caring for women postpartum is not just about checking boxes and showing up to appointments; it’s about caring for the soul that just guided a new being into our world.