Tips for the Postpartum Mother: Part 1

How Postpartum Acupuncture Can Help

This is the first post of an ongoing series of blog posts dedicated to the postpartum period. The postpartum period refers to the six weeks directly following childbirth. In this post, I will address many common changes a mother will experience in the first days and weeks following childbirth. Most of the time, I do not see my postpartum patients until one week following the birth of their baby. However, we communicate often via text, email, and phone, so this post was created as a resource with them in mind. 

There are many ways acupuncture and herbal medicine can support a mother during this time. Often, much can be done at home, and I am always available to provide acupressure, diet, and lifestyle recommendations and answer general questions related to the postpartum period.

Initially, after childbirth, women may experience the following:

  • Symptom: A bloody vaginal discharge (termed lochia) that will decrease and turn a lighter pinkish color as the first week progresses. Initially, this discharge of leftover blood, mucus, and tissue is as heavy as a period and lasts 3-4 days. It will then turn a watery pink before progressing through brown, yellow, and white over the next few weeks. Women may need to wear sanitary protection to absorb this flow, as it can continue for up to six weeks.
    • How acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine can help:
      • If, after about ten days, there is still persistent uterine bleeding, acupuncture, and moxibustion offer an effective way to stimulate the passing of any suspected retained product and slow the bleeding. We recommend you contact your midwife or doctor if the situation persists.
  • Symptom: Abdominal cramps (termed afterpains) will start as the uterus contracts. These tend to occur when oxytocin is released as the baby latches on to breastfeed. They are usually most intense in the first 48 hours following birth, subsiding naturally and disappearing within four to seven days.
    • How acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine can help:
      • Acupuncture and acupressure can often relieve discomfort when used in conjunction with pressure and heat applied to the local area.
  • Symptom: Perineal discomfort: Women who have given birth vaginally and have a tear will generally experience some perineal discomfort. This can range from numbness to acute pain on walking, sneezing, and coughing in those women who have had stitches. This pain or discomfort is expected to diminish as the perineum heals, usually within seven to ten days.
    • How acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine can help:
      • Some great acupuncture points can be incorporated into treatment to help relieve an edematous perineum (swelling). Herbal sitz baths may also be added.
  • Symptom: Cesarean section: For women who have had a cesarean section, incision pain, and later numbness around the scar site are to be expected. It is important to remember that although recovery will be similar to that of someone who has undergone any kind of abdominal surgery, there will be the additional factor of recovering from childbirth. Afterpains, lochia discharge, and breast engorgement should also be expected, and breastfeeding will still need to be established.
    • How acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine can help:
      • I like to use a moxa stick (a technique called Motherwarming) to warm the area around a cesarean incision. The mother will take home some moxa sticks at her last prenatal visit or can pick them up at the office postpartum.

Acupuncture can provide great relief and support during the postpartum period. Continue reading by checking our second post on postpartum acupuncture. You can do this by clicking here