Postpartum – the initial weeks after childbirth – is often referred to as the “fourth trimester.” While parents are focused on adjusting to life with a newborn (and significantly less sleep), mothers are also experiencing an intense time of physical healing and emotional and hormonal changes.
“Our culture has a very high level of expectation that postpartum is supposed to be a beautiful time and everything's supposed to go so smoothly,” says Michelle Gruppen, licensed social worker and parent advocate at Boven Birth Center. “Instead, many postpartum parents need extra support and resources as they navigate this new stage of life.”
That’s why Boven Birth Center created the Parent Advocate team.
What is the Parent Advocate team?
The Parent Advocate team has existed at Boven Birth Center for 15 years and consists of four staff members who are trained and certified in postpartum assessment and education. Services are provided at no cost to parents.
The team’s major focus is on postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, now called perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). PMAD is a broader diagnosis that includes anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, psychosis and post-delivery trauma, or PTSD.
“Our main role is PMAD assessment, education and support,” says Gruppen. “We want parents to be aware of symptoms and know what treatment options are available.”
One out of five women suffers from PMAD, and one out of ten men suffers from postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety – especially if their partner is struggling. “Our team is focused on the education and support of both parents,” says Gruppen.
Parent advocates also provide education on baby safety and connect families to community resources for help meeting financial or educational needs. These resources include self-care and getting connected to local parenting groups.
Holistic postpartum care
Parents receive comprehensive care at Boven Birth Center – even after they go home with the baby. For mothers who are at-risk or have a history of PMAD, the providers from Ob/Gyn Associates of Holland call new mothers at two weeks postpartum to conduct an Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) assessment, followed by a call from the hospital’s Parent Advocate team at four weeks postpartum before they head back to their OB’s office for their six-week postpartum checkup. According to Gruppen, these checks every two weeks are unique to Boven Birth Center.
“To have our OBs on board and monitoring the mother’s physical healing as well as her hormonal developments is huge,” says Gruppen.
Parents also go home with resources to find a therapist or counselor as well as a list of postpartum adjustment support groups through Postpartum Support International, which has over 20 different support groups online free of charge. There is also a breastfeeding support group at Holland Hospital where new moms can get the follow-up support they need from our board-certified lactation specialists and parent advocates.
“People say they’ve never heard of a parent advocate before – that’s because there aren’t any,” says Gruppen. “We are unique to Holland Hospital, but I would love to see them in every hospital.”
Where can I learn more?
Attend our upcoming event! Holland Hospital’s Boven Birth Center Open House & Tour on Mon, June 26 from 4 to 7 PM. Talk directly with our parent advocates and birth center staff and meet the providers from Ob/Gyn Associates of Holland while enjoying refreshments and giveaways. Register ahead to receive a special gift. We hope to see you there!