Having a baby is supposed to be one of the most joyous occasions in life, but for some parents, the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with it can be overwhelming. Having a strong prenatal and postpartum support network can help new mothers and their families navigate challenges.
When Monica Seligmann, a licensed massage therapist and registered yoga teacher, became a new mom during the pandemic, she realized the importance of having a compassionate network of family, friends and professionals.
While new mothers in many countries and cultures are provided with special care and consideration during the fourth trimester—the first three months after a baby is born—the focus during the postpartum period is mostly on the baby, not the mother, which can easily leave new parents feeling overwhelmed.
After giving birth to her daughter in 2019, Seligmann decided to redirect her bodywork business to serve pregnant moms and parents, getting her certification in prenatal and postpartum massage and founding Newark Prenatal Massage and Yoga.
“I founded my practice for the purpose of providing a supportive space for moms during this transitional period of their lives,” Seligmann says. While establishing her business, she came across a number of other women-owned firms that also uphold mothers in their perinatal birthing year, and so she began forming a network of companies and professionals that women could turn to for a variety of postpartum needs. From perinatal personal trainers to postpartum doulas and lactation consultants, Seligmann has put together a comprehensive group of resources for new moms.
“When you become pregnant, there’s always so much focus on buying the things you need for the baby, but not so much focus on what you as a new mom will need,” says Nicole Dougherty, a perinatal personal trainer and owner of Trainer Mommy in Middletown. “Once you have the baby, there’s so much pressure to do all of the things we’re expected to do to get back to life as usual, as if nothing different has happened…and we, as women, don’t really give ourselves the time to honor that postpartum recovery, rest and slowdown period that we need.”
Dougherty focuses on training mothers safely through pregnancy and postpartum, helping them find time to focus on themselves.
“One in five women will develop a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder postpartum, or 1 in 3 in the Black community.”
A serious concern during the postpartum period is maternal mental health, or MMH. MMH conditions following pregnancy can include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, bipolar illness and substance abuse disorders, and often go undiagnosed and untreated.
Anne DeCaire, a psychiatric nurse practitioner specializing in perinatal mental health, stresses the need for new mothers to pay attention to their own mental health. DeCaire runs a four-week program called Josie’s Grace with fellow R.N. Michelle Varisco, which helps parents overcome feelings of isolation and navigate stress and fatigue following the birth of a baby.
“One in five women will develop a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder postpartum, or 1 in 3 in the Black community,” DeCaire says. “Our goal is to give all new moms a free and safe program to attend with other women who’ve recently given birth and may be struggling as well. They just need to be with other people who understand what they’re going through and let them know that there are people who can help, and that they’ll be okay.”
Adds Seligmann, “As a new mother, it’s so important to take care of yourself, which also helps the health of the family unit and expands out to the community at large. Postpartum mothers and children are the most vulnerable members of our society, and we need to support them.”