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Pregnancy, Birth, & Beyond: Self-Education & More

I believe it is every pregnant mother's duty to educate herself on her body, her baby, birth, and the postpartum period. This self-education can set you up for a smoother pregnancy, birth, and entry into motherhood, with less stress, anxiety, and questions.


The blog below is full of resources, but is by no means a comprehensive list, nor does it mean you should read every book listed. It's simply to get you started and provides a guide of when to implement different education through your pregnancy.


Let's dive in!


First Trimester:

Congrats! You're pregnant! Let that sink in...


The first step for most soon-to-be mamas to call their doctor. You can certainly do so, or you can hold off for a while. There is not specific time you have to get in with your doc.


Your next task is to find a high-quality, bio-available prenatal vitamin, preferably one with folate instead of folic acid. There's a difference! Folate is a type of B vitamin found naturally in foods. Folic Acid is the manmade version. My favorite prenatal is Thorne Research Basic Prenatal.


As your hormones are gearing up, you'll likely be tired and nauseated. During the first trimester, only exercise if you feel well enough to do so. Focus on getting plenty of rest and water, and try to opt for nutrient-dense foods if your tummy allows.


You'll likely start downloading all the apps at this point too. Regardless of your favorite, I still recommend ordering the book The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. This book gives great tips and education week by week.


Second Trimester:

By the 12-14 week mark, many moms state feeling much less nauseated and more energetic. This is all person dependent though, so keep listening to your body in regards to movement and more!


You might also notice some pain in your hips. The hormone relaxin gears up to allow the hips to spread, and the uterus to expand. While this is normal, maintaining strong muscles around the hips will help offset the extra mobility that can cause this joint pain. That means, if you are feeling well, it's time to start strengthening the body.


Try out some glute bridges, side leg raises, squats, and ball squeezes to activate the muscles around the hips and increase stability of the joints. Check out my online program, Balance20, for more safe prenatal exercise and education!


Pelvic Floor PT and Chiropractic Care are great additions to your daily movement practice.


As the posture changes to accommodate the growth and weight of the growing baby, your spine will need some TLC. Search for a chiropractor that is Webster Certified, and ask for gentle adjustments if all that cracking worries you. My chiropractor uses The Activator Method, a spring-loaded, hand-held mechanical instrument called the Activator that allows for low-force impulse at specific points.


Once you are showing, find a pelvic floor physical therapist too! Pelvic Floor PT's work internally on the pelvic floor to release tension, and help you to properly use this muscles. Seeing a pelvic floor PT can decrease pain and leaking during and after pregnancy, and prevent pelvic floor dysfunction.


Your second trimester is a good time to start really evaluating your birth place and your practitioner as you emerge from the fog of early pregnancy. If you aren't totally jiving with your doc, you can set up interviews with others in the area. Take the time to do a little research into hospital and practitioner statistics (C-Section Rates, induction rates, etc.) when it comes to choosing your birth place if you are wanting to avoid a ton of intervention.


As you move through your 2nd trimester and energy increases, I also recommend setting up multiple doula interviews to select the best birth support person for you! Your doula will also be a great asset in helping you find those stats on hospitals and doctors you might be searching for, as well as helping you select a good birth class.


Speaking of birthing classes, definitely look into those - pricing, dates/times, etc. We started our Bradley Method Birthing classes towards the end of my second trimester.


Time to start reading or listening!


The majority of mamas spend an inordinate amount of time researching strollers and carseats. These are important, of course, but more so is your education on pregnancy and birth. It's so vital that we, as pregnant women, learn about our bodies, the normal and natural condition of pregnancy, and birth.


My 2nd Trimester Recommended Reads/Listens/Courses:

*Please note this is not a comprehensive list


Ina May's Guide to Child Birth


Birth Without Fear: The Judgment-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum


Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond


Expectful Meditation & Sleep App


The Doula's Guide to Empowering Your Birth: A Complete Labor and Childbirth Companion for Parents to Be


Husband-Coached Childbirth


Evidence Based Birth (Website & Podcast)


The Birth Hour - A Birth Story Podcast


Third Trimester:

Things are getting real!


Hopefully by this point you are happy with your birth place, provider, and birth team, and are taking your birthing classes. Great job!


By your third trimester it's good to start working on your birth preferences/plans.

Have them all typed up and printed out - I recommend a Preference A, B, and C list for staff, because ya never know! Birth preferences or Birth Plans aren't just for moms going unmedicated; I recommend them to all as a way to decide what interventions they want, for further education of protocols in different birthing settings and choosing what feels best for you.


As you move through your third trimester switch gears and start reading more about breastfeeding, baby care, and the 4th Trimester.


My 3rd Trimester Recommended Reads/Listens/Courses:

*Please note this is not a comprehensive list


The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding


The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby


The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality


Taking Cara Babies Online Course


Safe in the Seat (instagram account/telehealth consults)


The Baby Book, Revised Edition: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two


In addition to that, I highly recommend creating your postpartum plan of care. This is a simple list of what service/help looks like for you for friends and family, an opportunity to think about who is going to do what tasks since you will be recovering with baby, and a list of potential resources you may need in the area.


Potential Resources:

*Please note this is not a comprehensive list

Mental Health Professionals/Counselors (I scheduled in a counseling session for 1-2 weeks after baby)

In-Home Lactation Consultants (great to call the day your milk comes in so they can assess you then and there, and help with any potential issues sooner rather than later)

Postpartum Doulas

Chiropractors


Lastly, this is when most mamas start going on pediatrician interviews. It's great to also do some education on the type health you want for your family, and seek out a provider who aligns with your desires.


Fourth Trimester:

The 40 days of rest.


The first 40 days after baby are days of rest, bonding with baby, learning your newborn, and recovering from childbirth.


Gentle walking, diaphragmatic breathing, and light stretching is typically the extent of your movement practice. Focus on consuming nourishing foods, and allow friends and family to take care of the house as you and partner take care of baby.


During this time, utilize the list of resources you took the time to create as needed (counseling, lactation, etc.), and give yourself grace as your embark on a brand new journey.


There is no book to prepare you for this, and regardless of all the education, you'll still have questions. Reach out to those who are supportive and share your view of mothering, who can be empathetic to your exhaustion, and provide helpful tips that resonate with you.


Take. Your. Time.


Lastly, set up a session with a pelvic floor PT after your 6 week postpartum appointment with your doctor. It's vital to see a physical therapist or exercise professional in person before resuming exercise.



While it goes without saying that all the education in the world likely cannot prepare us for what contractions feel like or those sleepless nights after baby, we can rely on our self-education to decrease the fear of the unknown and as guides for when we need more support of where to turn.


The important take-away here is that there is much more to pregnancy and birth than just seeing your OB and having a healthy baby. We can, and should, enjoy this stage of life and take the opportunity to learn more about this natural process!

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