By Katie Kuhn
Our society is extremely concerned about the health of women throughout pregnancy- constant doctor’s visits, ultrasounds, tests. Then, the baby is born, what happens to the new mom? The postnatal period, or the fourth trimester, is a much underappreciated time of transition. One doctor’s visit at six weeks postpartum is common. The US has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world. With our high rates of cesarean sections, women need longer to recover from major abdominal surgery. Yet 23% of women are back at work within 10 days after childbirth.
In other cultures, there are traditions focused on the recovery of the mother. In China, it is common for the grandmother to stay with the new mom for the first month, not to help with the newborn but to take care of the new mom. In the UK, a midwife comes to the house daily for 10 days to help with breastfeeding, hygiene, sleep, and general medical checks.
There is an unrealistic idea that women have babies and they will magically recover in a week, be back to their pre-baby selves. Most women have pain, night sweats, engorged breasts, possibly anxiety, depression, and incontinence on top of exhaustion from no sleep and blood loss.
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After having my son, I was shocked at the lack of information and care during the postnatal period in standard healthcare. Midwives offer frequent home visits to check on mom and baby. Even as an acupuncturist, I commonly treat infertility, pregnancy symptoms and help induce labor, but never fully considered postpartum support, until I needed it myself.
Placenta encapsulation may sound like a radical idea to some, but it is common in many other cultures, even most animals eat their own placenta. The placenta provides nutrients to the fetus and is high in iron. It is a medicinal substance in Chinese medicine. It is commonly steamed with nourishing Chinese herbs, dried and encapsulated for easy consumption. It is easier to digest than iron pills and allows women to regain some nutrients lost during childbirth. There are other formulas women can take to help rebuild their bodies after babies and increase breast milk production.
Acupuncture can be started immediately postpartum to help with a wide array of side effects, from pain and bleeding to emotional support. A physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor rehabilitation may help deal with incontinence and pelvic pain. Nutrition is of utmost importance. Eat whole foods, avoid raw foods for the first month and focus on soups and stews. Meals can be prepped beforehand and frozen. Chinese herbs can be added to soups and bone broth to enhance healing. Rest as much as possible, and allow family and friends to help out around the house. Start with gentle exercise.
If you are currently pregnant, take the time to prepare some make ahead meals. Consider meeting with an acupuncturist trained in Chinese herbal medicine to have a custom postpartum formula on hand, like we offer at Huron Point Acupuncture. Make arrangements for placenta encapsulation with a local midwife. Schedule help with family and friends. Listen to your body, if you feel like something is wrong, check with your healthcare provider.
If you are interested in learning more about acupuncture, contact Katie Kuhn at Huron Point Acupuncture or schedule an appointment today at huronpointacupuncture.com or find a Board Certified acupuncturist at NCCAOM.org/find-a-provider-directory.