An interview with Nathalie Walton, CEO of Expectful

If you are… thinking about having a baby, dealing with fertility issues, pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, or even healing from the pain and loss of a miscarriage or loss of a child, you are going to want to read my amazing conversation with Natalie Walton, CEO of Expectful. Even if you aren’t, you might know someone who is on this path. You are going to want to share this blog post with them.

In this post, we are going to talk about Expectful, which is an app that you can download on your phone. It can help you in so many ways by cultivating a practice of meditation during your pregnancy and beyond. You can also use it to access holistic healthcare providers and support groups.

Not only that, we are going to talk about…

  • The benefits of meditation for fertility, pregnancy, delivery, and parenthood.
  • The lack of access for pregnant women and those trying to conceive in the US.
  • How meditation and holistic healthcare can empower women to have more control over their pregnancy journeys.
  • The biggest issues surrounding the abysmal maternal healthcare outcomes for black women.

A Little About Nathalie

I want to sing out Natalie’s praises. She’s pretty friggin awesome. She’s the CEO of Expectful, the number one meditation and sleep app for fertility, pregnancy, and motherhood. Natalie is also on the Fast Company executive board. As the CEO, Natalie is aiming to tackle the well-being crisis facing the 21 million women in the United States who are on their motherhood journeys by increasing access to holistic, evidence-based wellness solutions. Over the span of eight years, Natalie rose to the ranks of Google eBay, and Airbnb, building her intrapreneurial confidence. However, it wasn’t until Natalie had her own traumatic high-risk pregnancy in 2019, that she realized there needed to be more accessible pregnancy resources.

She became a late-stage co-founder and the CEO of Expectful in September of 2020. Within just 90 days, she closed her first seed investment round while raising her infant and adding hundreds of thousands of users to this new platform.

Watch the the full video podcast of my interview with Nathalie Walton by clicking play on the video above.

Welcome Nathalie! Tell us a little bit about your pregnancy journey.

I’ve always been a wellness junkie. I am a Type A person. I over-prepare for everything. When I got pregnant, I thought “oh, you know what, this is easy, I’m working out all of the time. I’m eating all of the right things.” However, on my 20-week scan, (mind you, my bags were packed to go on my babymoon. I was literally going to leave right after the appointment. The doctor looked at me and said “where do you think you’re going?”  I said, “I’m going on my babymoon.” They said, “not so fast. Don’t you understand these results? You’re at higher risk for preterm labor.” This is at 20 weeks! They said, “you’re at risk for giving birth at any time.”

I was shocked. I thought, how is this possible? I’ve planned everything, I’ve done everything correctly, I’m healthy. I said, “this can’t be possible”. It turns out they were right. I was at higher risk for preterm labor and had several other complications. This created a lot of stress in my life because I didn’t have control. Carrying a child, that’s such a precious thing. You want to have control. You want the very best, but unfortunately, that’s just not always the reality. You can’t control the outcomes. My life quickly became a situation where I started to live it in weeks and days.

I started counting the days. Every time I got an email from The Bump, or What to Expect, telling me how big my baby was that week I thought, I’ve made it seven more days. I’m seven days closer to making it to term. Somewhere in my third trimester, I came across this app called Expectful. Now, I’ve been meditating for a very long time, probably close to 20 years, but Expectful was life-changing for me. I started doing weekly pregnancy meditations. I got really into hypnobirthing.

When I Started Meditating in Pregnancy, Everything Changed

Within a couple of days after cultivating this new practice with Expectful and getting into hypnobirthing, I actually stabilized. I was at the point where I was going to the doctor daily for a nonstress test and dopplers. I noticed that things weren’t getting worse. Amazingly, I got to term! That was something that I thought was impossible at week 20. I made it to 38 weeks! I really credit that to my experience with using Expectful and getting into meditation and hypnobirthing.

There’s a ton of scientific evidence around the power of meditation in pregnancy, particularly in high-risk pregnancies. That’s actually how I came to Expectful. I was a user first. Later on, in my postpartum period, I became an advisor to Expectful, which then led me to become the CEO and a late-stage co-founder.

What is Expectful?

Expectful is more than just a meditation app. (Although that’s a huge part of it.) We’ve brought together a variety of resources on sleep and also healthcare providers and other providers. You can even connect with other women who are going through the same journey as you in support groups. Just on our website alone, we have tons of blog articles that are 100% free to access.

How Can a Meditation Practice Affect Pregnancy?

There is an increasing amount of research that shows that using meditation apps really as little as five minutes a day can reduce stress, it can reduce anxiety, in pregnancy, and in postpartum. Where we see rates of anxiety just skyrocketing, particularly as a result of the pandemic. There was a study that came out last year. It showed that 72% of pregnant and new moms experience anxiety as a result of the circumstances that we’ve experienced during the pandemic.

It can reduce pain in labor

One of my favorite studies shows that cultivating a meditation practice reduces pain in labor. I can attest to that. I ended up having an emergency c-section, at the very end of my labor. I labored unmedicated until the very end. I don’t want to say that it was not painful. It was. It was certainly an experience, but I was so into hypnobirthing that I was like, I’ve got this. It was such a surreal experience to be able to experience the pain and the surges. I really credit that to hypnobirthing and having a meditation practice.

It can improve fertility and even help with breastfeeding

I’ve done a lot of work with doctors and researchers, and I’ve spoken with these doctors that have studied the impact of stress on fertility. I know no one wants to hear that they need to calm down because that’s stressful in and of itself. Sometimes pointing out the obvious isn’t so helpful. What is helpful is knowing that there are tools out there that can reduce your stress.

 Our app Expectful helps you to reduce that stress. We have daily cycle meditations and IVF meditations that you can do for five minutes a day to destress. We have the same thing for breastfeeding.

For me, breastfeeding was so stressful. I was a NICU mom. 92% of mothers struggle with breastfeeding. I’ve seen the data that shows that using our app really does impact breast milk production.

Expectful Isn’t Just a Meditation App

We don’t just have meditations, although that is a key component. We also give you access to services and service providers. I experienced this during my journey. It was so difficult to get access to certain types of services. I only had five minutes with my OBGYN every couple of weeks as a high-risk person! I had so many questions. I wanted to connect with a nutritionist to see if there was anything I could do with my nutrition to improve my condition.

You Have Access to Services and Service Providers in a New Way

We recently launched a services section on our app and website. It gives you the ability to connect with a nutritionist, an infant sleep consultant, a lactation consultant, and more. It’s at a pretty accessible price point. Let’s say you just have a quick question. You’re struggling with getting your baby to latch on properly and your nipples are hurting. You can book a 15-minute session for just $20 to talk to an expert in as little as 12 hours.

One of the unfortunate realities of being a mom, and in pregnancy is that you aren’t sure if what you are experiencing is normal. Oftentimes there is a solution, but you don’t know where to go. I’m so glad we’ve created this solution for moms.

There are Support Groups and Office Hours

We also have support groups and office hours. Let’s say you don’t want to pay for an appointment or you just want to connect with other women who are going through the same thing that you are. Sometimes it just helps to know that you aren’t alone.

Expectful is Not Just for Pregnancy

Expectful is not just for women who are pregnant. It’s also for women who are on any stage of the journey like…

  • fertility

  • breastfeeding

  • pregnancy

  • postpartum

  • loss

The sad reality is one in six pregnancies ends in a loss like a miscarriage, stillbirth, or a baby who passes away soon after they are born. It’s such a devastating experience. I don’t think that there’s enough space being held for these communities. It’s something that is swept under the rug and not talked about. We have a lot of resources to help. You can speak to a grief counselor. We have a healing library that is completely free. My belief is that anyone that experiences the pain of loss needs help.

Expectful is Also Trying to Help African American Women Get Access to Better Healthcare

I’m African American. When I was pregnant, I knew that I would have a challenge with my birth. And I knew that because I looked at people like Beyonce, Serena Williams, Allyson Felix, who are very brilliant women. They have all the access in the world and they really struggled. They had life or death situations, with their births.I have all of the access too. I live in a great city. I had fantastic healthcare and generous benefits from my company, but I still really struggled.

The reality is that black women die at a rate of three to four times that of white women. My experience really shed a lot of light on it. It’s a very deep and complex issue. I think a lot of it is systemic racism and people not taking black women as seriously when they share feedback, or they share complaints. I personally experienced that.

Expectful has a Meditation Collection Just for Black Women

I created a meditation collection called Black mamas meditate. These are meditations that are specifically geared for black women who might be experiencing being dismissed and the extra pain of advocating for yourself. The reality is that black women, women of color, are dying at rates that are unacceptable. It’s my hope that our digital solution is one step in improving outcomes.

There are so many pioneers in this space that are creating solutions. One of my favorites is called Earth app. And it’s an app for birthing without bias. It helps women to find care providers that don’t have that bias. It’s currently a pretty sad situation for women of color giving birth.

Dr. Tabatha’s Response

I get goosebumps when you talk because I have flashbacks to my training. I trained in a predominantly black community. I took care of a lot of African American women. It was very common for them to be stoic and not complain or talk about their symptoms. It was a sign of their strength. When they didn’t complain, we mistook it that they were fine. I remember one of my attendings saying, “black women are so strong, they don’t feel anything.” That’s a bias that gets fed into your brain. Then you stop ignoring the signs. Because of this, you do give subpar care and it’s heartbreaking. I’ve had some traumatic experiences trying to save black lives over that situation.

We just need to keep putting the word out there. It’s not okay that the risks and the morbidity and mortality are so much higher. We need to encourage women to tell us how they’re feeling and to listen to their bodies and share. They don’t have to be stoic and strong. As providers, we also don’t want to blow them off, because of our preconceived ideas. We need to keep talking about it more. I really appreciate everything that you’re doing, because we need to do this on a more regular basis.

I could keep talking about this, but I try to keep my blog posts shorter.

How Can Listeners Connect With You?

I recommend that everyone downloads Expectful. You can find it on the Apple App Store and Android store, but we’ve created a special promotion for your readers. Go to www.expectful.com/functional and enter the promo code: FUNCTIONAL to get your first month of Expectful for just $1

Follow us on Instagram at Expectful. We’re here to support you whether you’re looking for meditation, sleep content, a support group or to connect with a variety of experts like infant sleep or nutrition. We have office hours, or if you need a little more help, you can connect with our experts one on one. Whatever you need is at your fingertips. Check us out at www.expectful.com.

To Wrap it Up

Meditation in Pregnancy or really anywhere along your journey to motherhood, can have a huge impact on your health and longevity.