Tips for the Postpartum Mother: Part 2

How Postpartum Acupuncture Can Help

Continuing on from my last blog, I am outlining the common postpartum symptoms people have after childbirth and how postpartum acupuncture can help. Understanding this information ahead of time will help you find grace and acceptance of the many changes that are happening in your body. As always, I am here to provide support and recommendations to help you feel better as fast and safely as possible. 

  • Symptom: Breast health: Breast discomfort is normal following childbirth, with the breasts becoming engorged with milk on day 3 to 4 or as the milk flow comes in and changes from rich colostrum to breast milk. This is a natural process and will occur even if a woman does not breastfeed. Colostrum is a rich premilk that is present in small amounts (a teaspoon or so is all that is required for each feed). It contains antibodies and is ideally designed to aid the baby’s digestive system. 

The arrival of breast milk around the third day can occur within a time period of a few hours, resulting in breasts that are hard, painful and perhaps swollen to three times their normal size, often making breast feeding difficult.This engorgement is usually brief (lasting 2-3 days) and settles as the body’s milk production supply becomes established and adjusts to the baby’s feeding demands. In cases where breastfeeding is not required, medication can be given to stop milk production.

  • How acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine can help:
    • Acupuncture can help resolve the early symptoms of a clogged duct or mastitis, but if signs of improvement are not seen relatively quickly, I recommend you contact your midwife or doctor for further assessment.
    • I strongly recommend working with your midwife or doctor and a lactation consultant while breastfeeding is being established, and beyond.
  • Symptom: Sore or cracked nipples are often present during the first few days of breastfeeding before the nipples adjust. This should only be temporary, often peaking around the 20th feed and then diminishing until breastfeeding is established as pleasant and painless.
    • How acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine can help:
      • Herbal balms and salves are especially useful during this time of adjustment. I can recommend several different blends.
  • Symptom: Emotionally the postnatal period can be very different from some mothers’ expectations. Immediately following the birth it is common for women to feel relief that the birth is over rather than experience that “magical bonding moment” so often written about in childbirth books and displayed on TV and in movies. The first few days are often filled with feelings of both elation and depression, with many swings between the two. Often around day three the “baby blues” kick in. These are thought to be associated with changes in the woman’s hormone levels and manifest as unexplained bouts of crying or mood swings. These feelings are expected to subside after a few days.
    • How acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine can help:
      • Acupuncture and herbal medicine have much to offer in the way of mood support. I like to wait for everyone to settle in before diving into treatment for specific moods during the first few days. If the mother has a history of postpartum anxiety or depression, we will discuss this in the prenatal visits and come up with a plan for the postpartum time.
      • I recommend contacting your midwife, doctor or therapist if your symptoms persist.
  • Recovery time:
    • The idea that it will take women at least a month to fully recover from childbirth is not a widespread one in Western society. Usually partners or relatives will be around to help out after the birth for a week or two but then for most women it is back to “normal.” It may be an appealing idea that “super moms” be fit and ready for action within a week or two following birth, but this is not the reality for most women. While most will certainly cope, several months later it is often hard to shake off the tiredness and exhaustion.
    • While 30 days (or even 100 days) of recovery time may sound extreme to some women, it is in reality a reasonable length of time. You must consider that this is needed to compensate not only for the birth but also for the experience of being pregnant for nine months. This is not a time for absolute bed rest but rather a time when physical rest should be taken at every opportunity. Exercise is appropriate (although not an exhausting attempt to get back into shape), and attention should be placed on a diet that is suited to the woman’s constitution, with the emphasis on building blood and qi (energy). It is most helpful for women to realize that they are not expected to bounce back from childbirth within a few weeks and that it may take longer to recover their energy more completely.

Your postpartum period is full of changes, and I am here to help support you in your recovery and beyond. If you are pregnant, know someone pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant, I invite you to request an appointment to get established so you can explore postpartum acupuncture. Together we can develop a plan to help you maximize your health and happiness.