In Boston, we're lucky enough to have the Center for Women's Health at Massachusetts General Hospital. Not only do they conduct and disseminate information about the latest perinatal research, but they offer consultations for pregnant and postpartum women.
They recently had a look back of important posts on the blog from 2014, including their excellent response to the NY Times article on SSRI use during pregnancy.
This post is part of the RESOURCES series where every Thursday I feature websites, organizations, and information about perinatal emotional complications, parenting, therapy, reproductive health, and more. If you have a suggestion for a resource you'd like to see profiled, please let me know in the comments!
How did you come to start offering and be involved with the Expectant Mamas' Group?
LS: When I really started seeing a lot of pregnant women in my practice, they were consistently telling me that they did not have any pregnant friends and were hoping to develop a community of people going through pregnancy at the same time they were. I initially started the group with a childbirth educator who wanted to start it as a paid program, but we had trouble getting it off the ground. She decided to stop working on it, but instead of shutting it down, I decided to keep it going as a free weekly discussion. It took some time to gain momentum, but since Erica joined it has become much better, more consistent, and with a wider variety of topics covered.
EK: With my move to Boston in February 2013, I immediately became involved in the birthing community as a birth doula and photographer. I met Lizzie at the Partners in Perinatal Health Conference a few months after my move. She told me about the group and after coming to one meeting as a guest speaker I was hooked! It is such a fabulous resource and offers a safe place for new moms to meet other women, learn, ask questions, and be inspired.
I'm so excited to feature a two-for-one interview with Dr. Lizzie Sobel and Erica Kershner, the leaders of the Boston & Cambridge Expectant Mamas' Group. I hope you already know about this fabulous, free resource for pregnant women in the Cambridge area, but if not, head over to their Meetup page to learn about the group and upcoming speakers. Full disclosure: I'll be visiting on February 16th to talk about how couples can prepare for the postpartum period based on my Becoming Parents workshop.
What could a newly pregnant woman expect if she went to a group?
LS: We pick a different topic each week; sometimes Erica and I talk about a specific subject, sometimes we show a film about pregnancy or birth, and sometimes we invite special guests to speak with a wide range of expertise, such as home birth midwifery, breastfeeding, meditation, and more. No matter what the topic, a woman can expect to meet other pregnant women in the area, have a space to learn about pregnancy and birth, and also have lots of opportunities to ask questions and get answers.
EK: We love keeping it as a casual discussion and we try to leave plenty of time for questions at the end. You can find the topics for each week posted on the meetup website. The Breathing Room, where we meet, is a warm and intimate space. It offers a great setting for our group. On a weekly basis we get anywhere from 3-15 guests which can include partners, friends and family.
What happens after a woman gives birth? Do you ever hear from her again?
LS: We love getting updates from our mamas about how their birth went. Many women tell us that they have made lasting connections with others in the group and consistently get together with them and their babies after they deliver. This is what our group is all about: helping women educate and empower themselves, and connecting them with a like-minded community of people going though the same big transition into Motherhood.
EK: We love to hear from women after they give birth! It is always such a joy to hear the news from women who have shared and found value in the space. We have had many of the mamas come in as guest speakers to share their birth stories with the group and we want them to know they are always welcome back.
What other resources or supports do you wish were available for pregnant or postpartum women in the Boston/Cambridge area?
LS: I hear a lot of stress and anxiety about women going back to work and trying to balance their careers with their children. It would be awesome to see some kind of mentorship program where a pregnant woman could be connected with a working mom in her industry, to ask her questions about childcare, work/life balance, and just to have an emotional support person who understands what she is going through. [An aside from Laurie: I think this is such a great idea!]
EK: Our group is unique in that it is geared toward pregnant women. There are many new moms groups offered around the Cambridge area but often the pregnancy groups are harder to find. Many of the women who come to the group are first time moms who are either new to the area, or don't have many friends who have children themselves. They are looking to meet other women that they can talk with and relate to. It would be a wonderful thing if there was more education around prenatal physical and mental wellness.
Lizzie, tell us about being a chiropractor who treats pregnant women...
LS: The most common complaints that bring a pregnant woman into my office are: low back pain, pubic symphysis pain, and round ligament pain. I also see a ton of women coming because their baby is not in an ideal position for birth: presenting breech, transverse, or occiput posterior.
Chiropractic care can help with virtually any pregnancy related or non-pregnancy related ache and pain, ranging from migraine headaches, to wrist pain, to knee pain, to hip pain. I have also helped women who have urinary incontinence, constipation, and acid reflux, though this is not usually why they are presenting to the office.
I have always wanted to help women have safer, easier, and more natural births. I believe very strongly that birth is a natural process, and that every woman has the innate intelligence to give birth without the use of drugs or surgery. After graduating chiropractic college, I started a year long postgraduate program in Westwood, MA through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. We met for an entire weekend each month for a whole year and learned all about treating pregnant women and infants and children of all ages. We learned practical adjusting, and also all the theory and information behind treating these populations. This training gave me the knowledge and confidence to start working with these unique populations. I immediately connected with the amazing birth community of Boston, and am able to help fill the great need for these services.
I work very differently than many chiropractors. My adjustments are extremely gentle, with no cracking, twisting or popping. Most people feel extremely relaxed and even fall asleep during the treatments! If you are scared of going to a chiropractor, give me a call! I can guarantee that the adjustments will be comfortable and not at all scary.
Erica, tell us about being a birth doula & photographer...
EK: Dr. John Kennell once said "If a doula were a drug it would be unethical not to use it". Whether or not you are planning a natural childbirth, there are numerous benefits to hiring a doula. One of the biggest benefits is choosing an experienced birth worker that you know and trust who will be with you on your labor day. When birthing at a hospital, you most likely will have strangers coming in and out of your room throughout labor and birth. The doula (that you chose) will be with you from active labor until after the birth. She is working for you and no one else and is there to help you do all that is possible to get what you want out of the birth experience. She will be 24/7 support- there to guide and answer your questions- as you get closer to your estimated due date.
I started doing birth photography soon after I began working as a doula. I studied photography at Mason Gross School of the Arts. It started by offering my doula clients photos and I was soon after being hired just for the photography portion. A few months later I found myself doing pregnancy, newborn and family sessions as well! There is so much beauty, love, and emotion surrounding birth. As a lifestyle photographer my favorite moments to capture are the raw emotion that happen in such intimate spaces and times. There is nothing more fulfilling than hearing from a client how much they treasure and are moved by the images.
I want to thank Dr. Lizzie Sobel of Wholesome Healing Chiropractic and Erica Kershner of Birth Your Roots for answering my questions, and most importantly, for offering such a great resource to the community with the Expectant Mamas Group. Have any follow up questions? Post them in the comments and we'll see if we can answer them!
There are some great speakers lined up including Dr. Gold, a pediatrician; Jamie Zahlaway Belsito, a postpartum depression survivor; Dr. Byatt, the Medical Director of MCPAP for Moms; Liz Friedman of MotherWoman; and Divya Kumar, a driving force behind a pilot project that put a postpartum doula in a community health center to provide accessible care, screening for perinatal emotional complications, and connection to clinicians for mothers there for their own or their children's medical appointments.
I'm hopeful that it will be an energizing afternoon where legislators can better understand the resources available - and not available - across the state, where mothers and families can meet with their representatives and providers there, and where more connections among us all can be made.
I'll be there most of the afternoon at the PSI of MA table. Please come by and say hello!