The profound personal and physical transformations of pregnancy and birth can leave a woman feeling both depleted and exhilarated at the same time. Recent studies suggest that around half of new mothers find the level of support and guidance from health professionals after birth is inadequate. In fact less than a quarter of new mothers who do experience negative changes in their health actually seek assistance.
Part of living a holistic lifestyle, is understanding how holistic medicines such as herbal teas, elixirs and other natural therapies, can support and heal you in times of need.
The Post-partum Period is a Time for Healing
After the birth of a baby it takes about 2 months for a woman’s body to return to it’s natural state. This time is known as the postpartum period. It is a time of bonding, nurturing and trust-building between mother and baby. Hormones act differently, sleeping patterns change and baby learns to function in the world outside the womb. Apart from a single check-up around 6 weeks after birth, a new mother is mostly left to her own devices.
The most common health issues experienced in the Post Partum Period are:
- extreme tiredness
- slow healing perineal pain
- pain during intercourse or urination
- ongoing health problem present
Rest & Rejuvenation
Exhaustion rates most highly of all of the symptoms experienced by new mothers in the western world. Lack of sleep, low appetite and irritability often accompany the fatigue and can take away from the joy of bonding with baby. Look to natural medicines and nutrition to alleviate exhaustion, boost appetite and improve the quality of your sleep.
To reduce exhaustion, one must soothe the nervous system with relaxant herbs such as oats. Stress and lack of sleep are huge energy burners, and once you are able to have better quality sleeps your energy will lift. Oats (Avena Sativa) is a deeply nourishing medicine for the nervous system. It is not habit forming, and can be taken daily in drop dose form to support better sleep and recovery from stress. Look for a relaxing Oats blend including the deeply calming herbs Passionflower and Valerian, and rest assured that you will be getting more restful sleeps!
Echinacea is well known as an immune supporting herb, and comes in very useful in the postpartum period. Infections are more common then. For stronger recovery effects, choose Echinacea with Thuja in a complex and take 20 drops in water several times a day. This will not only boost your immunity, it will support natural detoxification processes by cleansing the lymphatic system, thereby helping restore vitality and a sense of well being.
Exhaustion can sometimes be a by-product of pain. If you experience any intense pain, consider using some homeopathic remedies such as Chamomilla or Arnica. Arnica can be applied in cream form to the site of a wound such as bruising, joint pain or muscle strains, where it improves circulation and healing. In the case of a torn perineum try Hypercal cream, a blend of hypericum and calendula that improves healing of cuts and wounds. The faster you can heal any wounds, the more quickly the pain will subside. Taking a suitable multivitamin with adequate magnesium, vitamin C, calcium and B-group vitamins will also help relieve pain, by optimizing vitamin and mineral status.
Restorative Teas from Nature
New mothers need high quality nourishment as energy output is vastly increased (to over 3000 kcalories daily) in the post-partum period. Much of this energy goes into producing breast milk and providing nutrition for baby. Nothing beats nature when it comes to restorative medicines. Nettle tea nourishes the female reproductive system and is an age-old energy booster. Chamomile or Lemon Verbena both calm the nerves, thereby relieving exhaustion from lack of sleep is involved. If dietary nutrition is lacking consider fennel, fenugreek and aniseed in a Nursing tea form. They will help reduce sugar cravings and provide good sources of energy. Make sure that your water intake is high, around 1.5 to 2L daily depending on your level of fatigue – which by the way, is also a symptom of dehydration.
Natural Remedies for Lagging Energy
Oats is a warming and nourishing tonic for nerves that helps rebuild vitality in periods of recovery and improves sleep. Topically it soothes irritated skin and gently cleanses. Chamomile settles a nervous stomach, eases anxiety, improves sleep. Topically it soothes skin. It is safe for babies and children.
Echinacea improves wound healing and raises resistance to infections, thereby conserving energy and improving general well being. In the postpartum period it is common for mothers to fall sick. Echinacea is a good tonic for the respiratory system and when combined with Thuja, is both immune boosting and cleansing.
Nettle offers tonifying effects with high nutrient content such as calcium and iron, stimulates breast milk production. Topically it reduces irritation and rashes. Blackthorn is a strengthening herb that relieves fatigue and tonifies the nervous system, boosts energy during breastfeeding and convalescence.
Also, baby massage offers a way to bond with your baby through touch, and encourages a meditative breathing response in new mothers that is restorative in itself.
Meditation clears out mental fatigue and creates space in the body for new energy to emerge. Through its use of the breath, it helps revitalize and cleanse the skin by enhancing circulation and detoxification. Deep breathing has also been shown to reduce the perception of pain.
Meditation can be seen as a way of being, moving and breathing, rather than a rigid discipline of isolation and stillness. This sort of practice is likely to be impractical when you have a baby to care for so keep it simple. You can even meditate with your baby in the process of making rocking movements, or breathing together and tuning into each other’s natural rhythms through massage and touch.
Simple Breathing for New Mothers
Sitting or standing, inhale deeply so that you can get a sense of how wide your ribs can expand as you breathe in. During this time, sense expansion throughout your whole body including your legs. You might like to picture in your mind’s eye your belly, the vessels in your legs and your eyes are all expanding as you inhale. As you exhale, let everything soften and contract. Continue like this for at least 10 breaths, taking 3 to 4 seconds for each inhalation as a guide. Then turn your attention to your eyes. Keep them very soft. As you breathe in feel the eyes expanding, the edges reaching out to the sides of your face. As you breathe out feel your eyes relax back into their normal position. You might also feel the sides of your mouth expand into a smile as you inhale. Continue for another 10 breaths.