In clinic I see a lot of patients who prioritise preconception and pre-birth care, but forget that the period after birth (the fourth trimester) is an equally important time for the Mother of a new young baby.
Huge hormonal changes are taking place after birth– progesterone and oestrogen drop rapidly in the first week, soon followed by HcG and even the feel good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine drop naturally in the weeks after birth. This, coupled with coming down from the intensity of the birthing experience, and living with the erratic needs of a new baby signals great change. If hormones are depleted or not in balance, it can heighten feelings of postnatal depression or ‘baby blues’.
Hormones prolactin and cortisol become activated after birth to ensure good milk production, and the body's production of oxytocin remains high to also support milk flow, and to continue stimulating contractions to help the uterus go back to its normal size and stop uterine bleeding after birth. Interestingly, cortisol is also a stress hormone which can become depleted at times of chronic anxiety or stress. Oxytocin is also a feel-good hormone, that promotes mother-child bonding, feelings of warmth, and calm and amazingly; helps a Mother’s digestion and supports energy and nutrient absorption from food, after birth. Oxytocin is stimulated during birth and while holding, touching and breastfeeding your baby, but is inhibited by anxiety and fear. If cortisol and oxyctocin levels are depleted it can further exacerbate breastfeeding and other challenges and add to the cycle of stress.
For some mothers, breastfeeding can be challenging, and anxiety levels may be high as they grapple with these physical, emotional and mental changes, which can vary depending on each woman’s circumstance, levels of support, and ability to ask for help and self-care.
In Chinese medicine we talk about the mother’s health in terms of Jing, Qi, Blood and Shen:
Jing– is the fundamental or constitutional essence from deep within the mother that was used in the pregnancy to make the baby, and is greatly depleted post pregnancy and childbirth.
Qi– is the energy with which the mother operates her daily life– how tired or energetic she feels depends on Qi levels. This is affected by sleep, diet and self-care practices for example.
Blood– is literally blood, which impacts breastmilk production, iron stores, hydration levels, ensuring there is adequate circulation to all the organs and tissues, and that blood runs smoothly, and isn’t congested.
Shen– is the ‘Spirit’ and really reflects the state of mind and emotions, and feelings of connectedness and wellbeing.
Taking care of the mother in this period after birth, ensuring all these factors are in harmony is incredibly important; for her own wellbeing, the baby’s wellbeing, and to optimise her fertility for any future pregnancies.
We utilise acupuncture to assist with calming stress levels, and restoring energy and essence that may have become depleted during pregnancy, childbirth and amidst a busy working life. The first treatment we offer after birth is called a "Mother-warming" – a comforting and relaxing treatment that warms the lower back and lower abdomen, using either a heat lamp or smokeless moxa stick. It’s safe to do this treatment as early as a few days after a vaginal birth, and 2 weeks after a Caesarian birth, providing there are no infections or complications.
Alongside this treatment we recommend eating healthily after birth, with slow cooked, nourishing stews and soups and avoiding too many cold or processed foods. Remember to rest whenever possible, take moments out for yourself as a new parent and don’t underestimate the effects of a little self care. You deserve it! Happy Mama = a happy baby.
Enquire further about treatments with Sage via reception: 02 9555 8806, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read more about Sage here, or book in for your Mother-warming treatment with Sage here.