Holistic Approaches to Postpartum Care
Katherine Takayasu, MD, MBA, Center for Integrative Medicine & Wellness
Being a new mom is the ultimate in highs and lows. New, adorable baby: awesome! Mood swings, achy breasts, sore perineum, being awake all of the time: not so awesome. Find balance during the postpartum period with these great tips from Dr. Katie.
1. Fed is best: breastfeeding doesn’t always come easily to new moms. If breastfeeding doesn’t work for you, let go of any guilt you may feel. Formula is not the enemy! As a doctor, my goal is to help moms and babies thrive. I personally attempted to exclusively breastfeed twins, but I ultimately needed to do a mix of both breast and bottle to help my little guys gain weight. Work with a lactation consultant in the hospital or find one in the community (many will make home visits!) to help you along if you’re interested in breastfeeding. Some useful herbs for helping milk production include Fenugreek, Goat’s Rue and Milk Thistle. If you’re over-producing milk, try Sage. If you’re breastfeeding, don’t forget to soothe nipples after each feeding with some organic coconut oil or lanolin. If you’re bottle-feeding, consider all the ways you can give your baby skin-to-skin contact to nurture your special bond.
2. Find a great pelvic floor therapist: whether you deliver vaginally or by C-section, most women have urinary problems after birth, usually in the form of stress incontinence (loss of urine during a cough or sneeze). Other types of incontinence can happen too, as a result of temporary trauma to the bladder nerves from delivery or surgery. Some women experience pelvic floor prolapse, where the supportive structures in the pelvic floor become too relaxed and allow the bladder, uterus or rectum to bulge into the vagina. A great pelvic floor physical therapist will get down in your business and teach you how to strengthen your muscles.
3. Keep your stools soft: shifting hormone levels, irregular sleep, and stress can make both your mind and your bowel cranky. Constipation can be especially problematic after birth because the vagina and abdominal muscles are in recovery. Be diligent with water consumption, working toward at least two to three liters per day. Eat lots of vegetables and fruit, since fiber from plant foods has the right mix of insoluble and soluble fiber. Or try 400mg of magnesium at night before bed (which also helps you relax!). Keeping stools soft also helps a healing perineum to avoid excess strain.
4. Never wake a sleeping mama: maybe you’ve heard the advice “never wake a sleeping baby,” but Dr. Katie recommends prioritizing your own rest as a new mom. If you’re not actively breastfeeding your baby and you feel tired, take a nap. Allow your friends and family to help with tasks like burping, changing diapers, making dinner, cleaning, and running errands. Most people are happy to help once they realize they aren’t stepping on your toes! Honor your mind and body and take a rest.
5. Take a breather with a sitz bath: most women who deliver vaginally have trauma to the perineal area. Soothe your bottom with a sitz bath. Making a sitz bath is easy: add warm water and soaking salts to a basin made to sit on top of the toilet or by using a bathtub. It seriously takes ten minutes, and it can also be a nice mental break!
6. Meditation for mood swings: emotions are all over the place in the post-partum period, especially a few days after delivery when the natural high has worn off and fatigue really settles in. Pay attention to your mood, and ask your significant other to help you too. One soft sign that things are not good is if you no longer laugh at jokes that would’ve been funny to you in the past. If you’re feeling sad or excessively anxious, talk to your healthcare team right away. One way to help manage your mood is with meditation because it balances the entire system, mind, and body. Just five minutes a day is enough to make a difference. Click here for a free meditation guide from Dr.Katie.
7. Find your “crew”: it took about nine months to grow your baby, and it may take longer than you think to feel “normal” again. Be gentle with yourself. While those early days can be a joy, they can also be very isolating as a new mama home with your little one. Try and sync up with a new mom’s group in your neighborhood. Schedule time during the day to meet up with loved ones or call other grown-ups while your new baby naps. Talking to others can help give us perspective during the newborn days.
As with all of Dr. Katie’s advice, please consult your doctor or health care team to discuss whether these strategies will be effective for you.
Katherine Wehri Takayasu, M.D., M.B.A. practices Integrative Medicine combining traditional Western medicine with evidence-based complementary modalities at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut. She helps patients heal naturally with acupuncture, mind-body medicine, botanical medicine, nutrition, and lifestyle optimization. She is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University/New York Presbyterian and teaches the next generation of doctors about healing the whole patient mind, body, and spirit. For her own wellbeing, Dr. Katie practices what she preaches. She engages in yoga and meditation regularly and enjoys experimenting with plant-based cuisine in the kitchen.