Supporting Post Partum Health with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 9.23.38 AMCongratulations! You’ve just given birth and are settling in to your new life with this precious little being by your side.  You spent all those months  taking care of your health and planning for the birth, but rather than feeling elated and ready to re-enter the outside world, you’re deeply fatigued, not sleeping well and noticing extreme fluctuations in your mood…. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

In our goal oriented culture that is constantly looking toward the next achievement, giving birth can seem like the culmination of much anticipation and effort.  However, as many new parents find out, it’s really just the beginning. In those early days and weeks, many of us feel unprepared for all that is asked of us. After such an incredible transformation, our bodies and our lives can seem unfamiliar and time is needed to adjust and settle in to our new reality.  From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, this is a critical period in which to focus upon rebuilding one’s physical body and rebalancing one’s energetic system that will not only alleviate acute symptoms, but support long term health.

Acupuncture and TCM have a long history of supporting women’s health through all stages of life.  With its recent popularization, there is greater awareness of how acupuncture, herbs and moxabustion (and other therapies) help to promote healthy pregnancies (by alleviating pain, reducing labour duration and improving birthing outcomes to name a few). However, it’s beneficial role in supporting a woman through her post-partum period has largely remained unknown.

In TCM, the post partum period (30-100 days) is seen as a time to focus upon the new mother’s recovery; physically, emotionally and energetically.  Good nutrition, ample rest and maintaining warmth are key recommendations. Moderating exertion and stress are also vitally important.  Historically, a woman would take a minimum of one month rest wherein her only responsibility was to satisfy the needs of her baby.  All other household and familial tasks were taken care of by other community members.  Although this may not be available to most women today, the aim of rehabilitation remains the priority.

Chinese Medicine takes a long term view to health and wellness and argues that, the degree to which a woman takes care of herself (and is taken care of) during this period has a direct effect on her continued health; even influencing her experience of menopause.

There is a long list of possible symptoms a new mother may experience after the birth of her child.  The following is a sample of post-partum conditions effectively treated by TCM:

poor appetite and/or digestion
night sweating
hair loss
persistent bleeding
insufficient lactation
depression and anxiety
insomnia or difficulties with sleep

TCM has developed over the centuries with a multi-faceted approach to treatment for post partum health. I use the therapies of Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Diet Therapy, Moxabustion, Cupping, Tuina and Qi Gong to support my clients.  These modalities each have their own particular benefit and when used together they have a powerful synergistic effect for healing.

Acupuncture is used to build qi (energy) and blood, remove stagnation and rebalance the energetic system. Herbal Medicine formulas are individually crafted and have been used for millennia to support the varied needs of new mothers.  Using food as medicine (Diet Therapy) is one of the key aspects to assist during post partum recovery. The suggested diet includes foods that are warm, cooked, easy to digest and nutritionally dense.  Foods to be avoided that are more taxing on the digestive system are raw, cold or frozen. (For more information on postnatal dietary health…click here)
Additionally, Moxabustion is a therapy utilizing an herb called Mugwort (Ai Ye/Artemisia Vulgaris) which is heated and used to warm specific areas of the body.  Post-partumly, this treatment is called, ‘Mother Warming’ and speeds recovery by dispelling cold, removing stagnation and generating energy.

As the mother of two children, I can personally attest to the amazing support offered by Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine both, pre and post-natally.  I welcome pregnant women and new parents alike to experience how TCM may benefit them at this exciting and demanding time of life.

Be well.

Lesley Ormiston is a Registered Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (R.TCMP) and a Certified Yoga Teacher.  She brings 15 years of experience in helping individuals and families lead more vital lives.  We are very excited to welcome Lesley to the Soma Team!

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