Postpartum. Our culture most often associates this word with postpartum depression when really, it refers to the time after a baby is born. Medically speaking, the postpartum period is defined as the first six weeks after a baby is born until the mother’s uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size. I prefer the description from Midwife Raven Lang, “As long as the baby is still in diapers and you’re up in the night, you’re postpartum”.
Women need a great deal of support during the postpartum period, yet many report that after those first few days of new baby celebration, their support networks tend to fade away. We tend to think that after six weeks, women should be back to normal physically and emotionally – that timeline is often reflected in the length of maternity leave. Women feel social pressure to have it all together by that six-week mark and can feel like failures if they’re still struggling.
Most commonly, women report that they feel more like themselves around the ninth month postpartum, not the sixth week. “Nine months in and nine months out” is something I often tell my patients. But during those nine months, it’s important to nourish your body and support your recovery. This is where Naturopathic support shines.
Naturopathic Support for the Postpartum Period
• Sleep: although we can’t change the challenges of newborn sleep, we can ensure that the mother’s sleep is as restful as possible. Sometimes postpartum depression or anxiety can contribute to difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep even when the baby is sleeping. Adding in gentle support such as Magnesium, L-theanine or calming herbs can have a profound effect.
• Emotions: no experience is as transformative as becoming a mother and it is completely normal to have a bumpy transition. Adaptogenic herbs can help your body adapt to the stresses of parenthood and create more resilience to those unexpected changes. Nervines are herbs that help to soothe and nourish a frazzled nervous system without being overly sedative.
• Lab work: we tend to focus on newborn health, but routine bloodwork at 6 weeks, 12 weeks and throughout the first year should be standard for mothers as well. It’s important to look at iron levels, a full thyroid panel and any risk factors for anemia as these markers can often change during pregnancy and have a great impact on postpartum well-being.
• Pelvic care: in several European countries, it is part of routine postpartum care for a mother to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist at 6 weeks postpartum. This should be the gold standard everywhere. In addition to a referral for a pelvic floor physio, we also offer Holistic Pelvic Care ™ at Vive Health, which is internal bodywork that incorporates the mental emotional aspect of pelvic floor health – especially important after birth.
This is just a snapshot of how Naturopathic care can support mothers during the tender postpartum time. It is a time of great change, challenge and joy – and every mother’s experience is unique. I think it’s time to take back the word postpartum and drop the negative association with depression. Let’s work together to make postpartum mean a time of nourishment, healing and transition into a new phase of life.
~ Dr. Kate