Feature: Interviewing Ritual Founder & CEO Katerina Markov Schneider on the Importance of Postpartum Wellness and Female Empowerment

The fourth trimester: It’s that phase of pregnancy no one talks about. And as a first-time mom who gave birth less than two months ago, I daresay it’s the one we should be talking about the most.

So what is the fourth trimester? For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s the first three months of baby’s life. That time when your baby is essentially still a fetus, not even capable of sitting up on their own or holding their head up for an extended period of time. That’s what it means for baby. For you – for mom – it’s the three months that follow the most physically and mentally exhausting nine months of your life.

During the fourth trimester, there is an instant shift that occurs. No longer are doctors, professionals and family members so concerned about mom’s health, but rather – all attention is now completely on the baby. While newborns do require a lot of attention (medical and otherwise) the fourth trimester can be especially trying for moms who are trying to recover mentally and physically, all while being incredibly sleep deprived and taking care of a tiny human that is completely dependent on them.

Women’s health as it relates to the fourth trimester is a growing topic of conversation and it’s something health companies are taking interest in. One such company is Ritual, a vitamin company that recently launched a multivitamin designed specifically for women postpartum.

I had the opportunity to interview Katerina Markov Schneider, the founder and CEO of Ritual, on the company’s newest product offering. Read on for my Q&A with Katerina and learn more about Ritual, the postnatal vitamin and her story on being a woman entrepreneur:

What were you doing before founding Ritual?

I was a venture partner and Head of Global Innovation at Troy Carter’s investment fund, Atom Factory, where I managed a portfolio of over 70 tech investments including Spotify, Uber, Dropbox and Warby Parker. Prior to that, I was the Global Lead of Innovation at Universal Music working for the company’s CEO Lucian Grainge, and I was instrumental in bringing Spotify to the US. 

What inspired you to start Ritual?

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, Tali, I couldn’t find a multivitamin that I trusted, one that was both scientifically-backed and traceable. Many that were recommended to me contained questionable ingredients like PVP and polyethylene glycol. Others lacked scientific rigor and contained nutrient forms that may be hard for some people to efficiently utilize, like folic acid. Plus, formulations were hidden, confusing and without transparent supply chains. I knew we could do better. So I quit my job and reinvented the multivitamin from the ground up. 

We created the first visible supply chain of its kind so you can dive deep in our nutrients from where they are sourced, to the scientists behind them and even the suppliers.

Have you always been interested in health and wellness? Particularly women’s health? 

I’ve always been inspired by my mom’s health journey and her focus on nutrition, and as a result I learned about the importance of prioritizing your health early on. 

What inspired you to pursue a postnatal multivitamin? 

Having given birth to three daughters in the last five years, I know all too well the importance of investing in yourself before, during and after pregnancy. We created one of the top selling prenatal multivitamins in the US and it was important to us to continue to help support women postpartum — against terrible advice that a postnatal multivitamin has tiny market share or that women only care about lactation support. To me, this just underlines the fact that even as one of the most demanding times in many women’s lives, the postpartum phase is often undervalued and overlooked.*

Why do you believe it’s important that women take a postnatal multivitamin during the fourth trimester?

We found that after giving birth, many women either opt to keep taking their prenatal multivitamin which aren’t necessarily formulated for the specific postpartum life stage or others may choose to not take a multivitamin altogether. But what many women may not realize is that the postpartum period can actually be more nutritionally demanding than pregnancy itself, especially for those that breastfeed or pump. Among the 29 essential micronutrients, lactation increases the demand for more than half of the micronutrients compared to pregnancy and other life stages.

We spent years researching to understand what should go into our postnatal multivitamin and specifically formulated it to help support a new mother’s nutrients needs for 6 months postpartum or for as long as she plans to breastfeed or pump.*

How is the Ritual postnatal multivitamin different from other postnatal multivitamins offered from other brands?

While other postnatal supplements on the market may sometimes focus on lactation and/or beauty benefits, we were committed to developing our Essential Postnatal leading with science and a focus on helping support her foundational health postpartum.*  So we formulated it with Vitamins A, C, D and Zinc to help support normal immune function, Omega-3 DHA, Choline and Vitamin B12 to help support brain health and 350mg of Omega-3 DHA per serving to help support fatty acid content of breast milk in lactating women. Clinical studies have shown that supplementing with at least 200mg of Omega-3 DHA daily helps support transfer into breast milk.*

As with all our products, we believe people deserve to know what they are putting in their bodies and why, so Essential Postnatal is made traceable with the first visible supply chain of its kind enabling our customers to dive deep into our nutrients via our website, from scientist to source to supplier. 

We’ve also paid special attention to help ensure that taking our postnatal can be an enjoyable experience that turns into a daily Ritual. We include a mint essenced tab to create a fresh experience and use an innovative delayed-release capsule, which is designed to dissolve later, in less sensitive areas of the stomach and small intestine.* 

“I had a very difficult time the first time around and yet everyone would ask me how the baby was doing; it’s rare that people ask the mom how she’s feeling (unless they also went through postpartum recently). We need to change the narrative in the US.”

– Katerina Markov Schneider, Founder of Ritual

Are you and Ritual seeking to change anything about the public dialogue when it comes to the fourth trimester?

It’s personal to me. I know all too well the demands of postpartum and early motherhood. As mothers, we often prioritize our health when pregnant, but after giving birth, the focus often switches to the baby and we put their needs first. But it’s so important that we also take care of ourselves and feel supported in our body. This is why we formulated our product to help support the nutrient needs of postpartum moms during one of the most demanding stages of her life.

When you first became a mom, were there any “surprises” that came with the fourth trimester? Was it more taxing than what you had been led to believe?

I think a lot of people tell you how amazing having a baby is but they never talk about the struggles of postpartum. It was shocking to me how difficult it was and frankly I was surprised how little we speak about postpartum culturally. In other countries women have confinement nurses and now I understand why. I had a very difficult time the first time around and yet everyone would ask me how the baby was doing; it’s rare that people ask the mom how she’s feeling (unless they also went through postpartum recently). We need to change the narrative in the US. 

As a mom yourself, what piece of advice would you give to women who are about to tackle the fourth trimester? 

Focus on self-care like you never have before during the first three months. It can be easy to get caught up in living in PJs, not washing your face and eating quickly. Try to do the opposite. Dress up, create a spa experience and make sure you are nourishing yourself. Even though it’s counterintuitive to take care of yourself first, it’s really important to prioritize yourself like never before. When you show up for yourself, it can be easier to take care of others.

How do you encourage a healthy lifestyle in your own home? With your kids? 

I incorporate my kids into activities that are active and teach them about taking care of themselves at an early age. We go to the farmers market together, so they learn to love sourcing their food, we cook one pot meals together (I don’t make them separate meals) and I even do workouts with them. Even if that means using my 2-year-old as a weight. 

Favorite workout or healthy snack?

I love the Melissa Wood health app for a quick 10-20min workout postpartum. It makes it easy to get something in that is gentle. I also average 10,000+ steps a day walking, a habit I started during my first pregnancy and now track on the Apple Health App. Healthy snack includes making a smoothie using a plant-based vanilla protein powder (preferably sweetened with monkfruit), a tablespoon of cocoa nibs, fresh or bought unsweetened almond milk and ¼ of a banana and ice. Tastes like cookie dough ice cream! I love getting protein into snacks postpartum because I’m always hungry and it’s nice to feel satiated. 

I had an investor once tell me that I could either start a family or start a company but not do both.”

– Katerina Markov Schneider, Founder of Ritual

Have you faced unique challenges as a female CEO? If so, how did you overcome them? 

Fundraising as not only a female but a pregnant female has presented various challenges. I had an investor once tell me that I could either start a family or start a company but not do both. I’m happy to report that I’ve had three amazing daughters since starting Ritual and I haven’t looked back. 

What advice would you give to women looking to start a business? 

I believe that women are often stronger than they even know. A lot of female founders I mentor will tell me that they need a co-founder to get something off the ground. I have to convince them that they are enough. Taking the leap is often the hardest part. 

To visit Ritual’s website click here. And to learn more about the postnatal vitamin, click here.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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