The moment you realize you’re going to be a parent, a mental checklist begins. It includes the things you’ll need to buy for your home (like a crib), classes to take, and even important tasks to complete (like buying life insurance).
You’ll also start seeking out medical providers, such as an OB/GYN or midwife and a pediatrician. But before you finalize that list, there are a few more birth services you may want to seriously consider. Some of them you probably didn’t even know you would need, but they can completely transform your entire birth experience.
Here are seven of our favorite birth services to consider.
Whether you’re already familiar with acupuncture (and its less-intimidating sister, acupressure) or just now hearing about it, this ancient treatment can have significant impacts on your pregnancy and birth.
Acupuncture is a subset of traditional Chinese medicine, and has been practiced for more than 2,000 years. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), this makes acupuncture one of the “oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world.”
While this type of energy work is not as commonplace in Western societies as in other parts of the world, acupuncture and acupressure can play a notable role in your birth experience… no matter where you live.
Acupuncture is often recommended to rebalance certain systems within the body, with the goal being to ease certain conditions or ailments. Many parents turn to this ancient medicine to help with:
A study was recently published in Sweden, exploring the impact of acupuncture on pregnant parents who were experiencing pelvic girdle pain. According to the results, pregnant parents who underwent acupuncture treatments twice a week saw significant improvements in their pelvic pain levels, compared to parents who only utilized girdle supports strengthening exercises.
Acupuncture is also used as a less invasive way of encouraging natural labor to begin, and can help with various levels of anxiety, stress, insomnia, and depression. Be sure to also mention these conditions to your primary doctor, however, even if you include acupuncture in your treatment plan.
Most doctors recommend waiting until at least the 12th gestational week before beginning pregnancy-related acupuncture treatments.
While the word doula still isn’t a household name, these birth professionals are being hired more and more everyday. The reason? Word is spreading about just how impactful a doula’s attendance can have on a pregnancy and birth.
In 2006, only about 3% of birthing parents hired a doula during their pregnancy; this number has grown close to 10% today. It’s no wonder, either, considering recent research suggesting that doula-attended births typically see less medical intervention, less pain medication, shorter labors, a lower incidence of NICU stays, higher Apgar scores, and parents who view their birthing experience as more positive.
A doula’s job is to provide support to the birthing parent through encouragement, physical touch, emotional feedback, and advocacy. Doulas can also help parents with pain management techniques, feeding support, and even newborn care. They are available through pregnancy, during labor, and immediately postpartum.
Doulas can also be hired to stick around well into the postpartum period. They are available to help the new parents with a range of services, including:
The presence of a dedicated and experienced professional can make all the difference in the world, especially during those first few sleep-deprived weeks. Postpartum doulas can be hired on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis.
Find the best postpartum doula support for you and your family here.
Doulas aren’t just for pregnant parents. Adoption doulas are also available to help new parents navigate the challenges of the newborn days following your baby’s placement in your home. The same services apply: they can help with soothing techniques, offer guidance on diapering and bathing, help with feeding and sleep routines, and assist the whole family as they bond with baby.
See which of our pros specialize in adoption doula support here.
Read What is a Doula and Why Do I Need One? to learn more.
No matter how you plan to nourish your newborn, the process can be confusing. It’s hard to know if your technique is correct, if baby is getting enough nutrition, and whether you need to make changes to your feeding schedule.
There are many professionals who can help, thankfully.
If you are breastfeeding/chestfeeding, your midwife and/or doula can often help establish feeding techniques and troubleshoot your baby’s latch. If you encounter issues later on (or don’t birth with either of these professionals), you can call on a postpartum doula, lactation consultant, or an organization like La Leche League for help. These professionals can identify a poor or ineffective latch, adjust feeding patterns, or even offer suggestions for increasing one’s milk supply.
Check out our lactation specialists and see how they can help you.
For centuries, birthing people in other cultures have practiced postpartum belly binding. In recent decades, one specific form of this wrapping technique — Bengkung belly binding, which originates from Malaysia — has grown in popularity among Western cultures.
During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin loosens ligaments in joints (such as the pelvis) to prepare for childbirth, among other things. This hormone remains in the body for a few months postpartum, during which those joints have the ability to move back into their original positions. For some, though, joints in the pelvis never fully return to where they were pre-pregnancy, leading to wider hips. To prevent this, many new parents turn to belly binding, to facilitate the movement of those still-softened ligaments.
Additionally, the expansion of an ever-growing pregnant belly stretches abdominal muscles. Postpartum, this can lead to a condition called diastasis recti, where the space between the abdominal walls is widened. Belly binding is thought to help those muscles also return to their original location.
Parents can hire a professional to assist with their belly binding, which can begin as early as five days postpartum (or six weeks after a cesarean section). This provider will come in and teach new parents the proper binding techniques, as well as offer support and feedback throughout the process. They can also wrap you the first few times, so you can be sure that it’s being done properly.
Belly binding can also be done with corsets or velcro wraps that are available online. However, traditional belly wrapping techniques are often considered superior (and more comfortable).
There is no shortage of new baby gear. Between strollers, bassinets, rockers, and bouncy seats, you may think that there’s not a single “baby-containing” product you could possibly need.
However, you might want to reconsider, at least as far as babywearing is concerned.
Babywearing is the practice of wearing your baby around in a device such as a sling or other type of carrier, freeing up your hands for daily tasks while keeping baby close. It is a more convenient option and allows you to carry your baby around for longer each day (without exhausting your arms!)… plus it brings with it a slew of benefits.
For example, did you know research suggests that babywearing can decrease the amount of time that your newborn spends crying each day? That’s right: the medical journal Pediatrics published a study showing that babies who spent at least three hours being held each day saw a 43% decrease in crying overall (54% in the evening hours!).
Today’s baby carriers make it easy for both parents to wear children well into the toddler years. For newborns, though, it’s recommended to wear baby in a wrap- or sling-style carrier. These can be tricky to master for new parents, which makes calling in a professional all the wiser.
Babywearing professionals will not only be able to tell you which carriers to choose for each age range, but also show you how to use them. That way, you know your baby is as safe and secure as possible — and you can hopefully hear a little less crying in the process!
You may consider a massage to be a luxury best reserved for the spa. When you’re pregnant or have a newborn at home, though, massages can be as much for your physical health as for relaxation.
During pregnancy, massage therapy can be used to ease joint or muscle pain, help with anxiety and depression, improve circulation and lymphatic flow, and even result in improved labor outcomes. You’ll want to find a massage therapist trained and certified to conduct prenatal massages, and most therapists will require you to be at least 12 weeks along before they’ll conduct a massage therapy session.
Between physical changes, hormone shifts, hours spent carrying a baby or hunched over for feedings, the postpartum period could possibly be an even more important time to look into massage therapy. Traditional Ayurvedic wisdom dictates that the birthing parent have a 40-day confinement period, during which they are cared for and given oil massages daily.
While you don’t necessarily need to opt for these postpartum Ayurvedic massages (called abhyanga), you can enjoy the benefits that a typical postpartum massage can provide. These include lowering stress levels, improving circulation (which can reduce swelling), uterine recovery (through specific stomach massage techniques), and helping with depression/baby blues.
If you’ve ever wanted to know just how incredible the human body can be, observe the progression of a pregnancy. From formation and growth to birth and nourishment, it’s amazing what our bodies are capable of doing.
It’s no wonder then why so many parents today are interested in belly casting. This fun art form allows you to make a plaster cast of your pregnant belly, creating a special keepsake that you can enjoy for years to come.
Belly casts can be decorated, displayed, used as newborn photography props, or simply tucked away. One day, you’ll be able to show your child just how tiny they really were.
Interested in getting a belly cast? Find someone to help here.
Another fun option for celebrating that new pregnancy body is through belly painting. This can be done in a number of ways, and you might even opt to memorialize your belly art through a fun photo shoot.
Belly painting (or henna) can be planned as an exciting part of your baby shower, or as a feature of your maternity photoshoot. Want something a bit more private? Use non-toxic paints and create a fun activity for older children that allows them to bond with their soon-to-arrive sibling.
Assembling a birth team is an exciting — but sometimes overwhelming — task. It’s hard to know what questions to ask and exactly what you want your experience to look like, especially if you’re a first-time parent.
There are many birth services available to pregnant and postpartum parents, some of which you might not have even heard about before. By educating yourself on what’s out there, and how beneficial these services can be, you’ll ensure that you have the most positive birthing outcome possible.
You can begin a provider search here, to learn all about the exceptional services available in your area.