In many traditional cultures, mothers spend the first 40 days of the postpartum period being cared for by family and friends. They remain home to heal from the rigors of childbirth and learn about their new baby. As she heals, she is given specific foods and holistic treatment to care for her, body and soul.
In several European countries, women after childbirth are assigned postpartum helpers to help make sure the mother and baby unit are allowed to bond, to facilitate successful breastfeeding and to make sure the mother can focus on rest and recovery. They also put an emphasis on whole body recovery, including pelvic floor health.
In the United States, help is often a luxury and maternity leave is not always a given. It can be difficult to care for mom and baby after birth. We will now talk about some ways to help the healing process and make the transition into motherhood easier.
Herbals Sitz Baths
A sitz bath is a shallow pan that is used to help promote healing in the pelvic floor region. It can contain herbs and salt or just plain warm water. The herbs are usually astringent, healing and tonifying herbs to help promote blood flow and reduce inflammation. You can find many pre-made postpartum herbal mixes or check here for a DIY version.
Many traditional cultures use belly binding as a way to encourage the involution of the uterus and support core muscles after childbirth. After the initial treatment, the mother will learn how to use the wrap herself in order to continue getting the benefit in the postpartum period. Many women find this to be especially useful post-cesarean.
Postpartum massage helps the mother recover after pregnancy and childbirth. It can also help to the mother begin to be in her new body, that for better or worse, has changed. The therapist will use gentle massage techniques, hydrotherapy, manual lymph drainage and other customized therapies to help promote healing and restore the mother’s health and wellness.
This is the process of drying and preparing the placenta for ingestion. Traditional Chinese Medicine has promoted the use of placenta encapsulation for thousands of years. It is believed to help with postpartum mood and hormonal regulation. While much of the information regarding efficacy is anecdotal, it is has not been researched in great depth. There is also not a risk to the mother if she is ingesting properly prepared pills. Be sure to look for a placenta encapsulation specialist that is trained in the proper handling of placentas.
Nutritional needs change from pregnancy to postpartum. You may have increased (yes, that says increased) nutritional needs to help your body heal and to keep up with breastfeeding. While you will be encouraged to continue taking your prenatal vitamins, you may also need to increase your calcium intake as well. This can be through food sources and/or supplements. Healthy fats will also help promote recovery and help produce balanced milk. If you are unsure of your nutritional needs, many nutritionists specialize in prenatal and postnatal heath and wellness.
Exercise in the postpartum period is key for maintaining overall health and supporting a healthy balance of physical and emotional health. Moderation is key. Too much and you can do damage that has repercussions years later. The core and pelvic floor will need time and support to return to normal after childbirth. Working with an expert in postnatal exercise can help you get back into your body in a safe manner.
Postpartum Maternal Health Care in the United States: A Critical Review
Postpartum Belly Binding
Postpartum Counseling: Diet, Exercise and Nutrition
You Don’t Have to Be Normal: The Reality of Postpartum Fitness