In China, the first few weeks after childbirth are called “chan ru.” Chan means childbirth, and Ru means mattress. In traditional Chinese culture, women were prescribed bed rest for one month after childbirth. Female relatives would take care of both the new mother and the baby, allowing the new mother to restore her strength and energy. Specific herbal prescriptions were given to help shrink the uterus, stop bleeding, encourage lactation, and return vitality.
In today’s fast-paced society, few new mothers have the luxury of resting for a month after childbirth. Most women need to return to taking care of family or work before their bodies have had a chance to fully recover from the birth experience. Growing and birthing a child greatly depletes the body’s qi and blood. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can accelerate recovery time.
In addition to returning the body to a state of balance and optimal reproductive health, some of the postpartum conditions that acupuncture can treat are:
- postpartum depression, anxiety and “baby blues”
- decreased energy and vitality
- low milk supply
- hormonal imbalances
- persistent bleeding
- lactation problems
- abdominal pain
- night sweats
Chiropractic care can also help after childbirth. In the eight weeks following labor and delivery, the ligaments that loosened during pregnancy begin to tighten up again. Ideally, joint problems brought on during pregnancy from improper lifting or reaching should be treated before the ligaments return to their pre-pregnancy state-to prevent muscle tension, headaches, rib discomfort, and shoulder problems. Often after birth, whether vaginally or via c-section, the mother’s pelvic biomechanics change – these changes can bring discomfort with walking, nursing and sleeping.
We restore the pelvic balance with similar manipulation, exercises and stretches that were used in the prenatal care. There is a tendency for new mothers to flex forward for long periods of time which can aggravate the mid back area. Carrying car seats with infants in them also alters biomechanics.
“Nursing neck” is common in new mothers who are breastfeeding, bottle feeding or simply rocking children. Looking down and to the side to watch the baby nursing can cause tension in neck and shoulders which can be alleviated with thoracic spine adjustments. We like to make sure the pelvis is in alignment and no post-birth issues. Spinal adjustments can also help with pain at the site of the epidural.
Integration of maternal bodywork may add welcome value to your healing journey and transition to motherhood.
Increased milk production – Breastfeeding is a beautiful gift to your newborn, but can also be a challenge for some moms. Massage therapy relaxes the body, increases circulation and increases milk production. Studies show that massage increases prolactin levels, a lactation hormone. Relaxation in the chest muscles opens the shoulders and improves lactation. Your therapists will position you comfortably if your abdomen or breasts are sore.
Better sleep – Most new moms feel exhausted after labor and delivery, complicated with around-the-clock baby care. Massage will ease the fatigue, promote relaxation and assist with sleep. Studies have shown an increase in delta brain waves (those that accompany deep sleep) with massage therapy. That is why it is very common to fall asleep during a massage. Getting enough sleep is key to postpartum recovery.
Pain relief – Adding breastfeeding and childcare can intensify arm, shoulder and back pain. Massage is an effective holistic approach that relaxes muscles and relieves pain without medication.
Stress Reduction – Anxiety and depression respond very well to skilled therapy. About two-thirds of new moms experience temporary postpartum blues related to hormonal changes, new responsibilities and adjustment frustrations. Emotional support and the other benefits of massage can help during this transition. Postpartum depression is a more serious, longer-lasting condition that affects 10-15% of mothers. Studies show massage to be beneficial for treating postpartum depression.