These pictures are of the foods I have made for Clients that asked for deep nourishment after Birth.
Blood loss happens to a greater or lesser degree during Birth.
Building it back up again afterwards can be easily done with nourishing meals that have lots of iron. For this I like to include Iron rich sources from bone broths, organ and grass fed meats and leafy greens. Herbal formulas that include blood nourishing tonics can also be used to build back blood after birth.
VITAL BLOOD IRON TONIC
A blend of herbs and foods to build blood and iron supply.
Delicious and safe for children, non constipating and gentle.
Ingredients :Nettle leaf, Dandelion root, Burdock root, Yellow Dock root, Beet root, Parsley, Rose hips, Molasses, vodka or brandy.
Below is a link to a video with Ariela and I talking about this product, and its uses and ingredients.
Post Partum Recovery Nutrient Dense Food ~ Grass Fed Beef and Liver Shepherd's Pie.
Post Partum Liver Pate made from Organic Chicken Livers, with caramelized onions, marsala, and heavy cream or coconut cream.
Nourishing and Nutrient Dense Soups ~ Made either with Bone broth and green leafy vegetables, cream or coconut cream, or made Vegan.
Stand up and Walk around ~ being upright encourages gravity to help baby descend and get in to a good position. It can bring benefits such as increasing comfort, shorten labor length and reduce interventions. Rhythmical movement, as well as the sensory enhancement of walking in nature or in a familiar neighborhood, can ground us in our experience and give us reference points on our journey that can help bring us in to our bodies in a way that feels safe and empowering.
Such as, taking walks with our partner, noticing plants, people, buildings we pass along our walk that bring visual focus to our journey that can bring more focus and meaning. Moving through intensity with a sensation, (walking through pain), can give us the sense that we are going somewhere with it, and not stuck at its mercy.
Memories of our walks after the baby is born can bring fondness and mark our journey of labor. We can continue the same route as our babies join us earth side.
Lunging ~ This can be on a step, chair, stair or other raised surface. We keep one leg with our foot facing forward, and the other leg at a right angle on raised surface. We lean gently in to our lunge towards our raised knee, and then back again. The benefits of lunging are to open up our pelvic area which may help baby rotate and relieve back pressure. It can be useful in stalled labor.
Sitting ~ During my first labor I found it immensely helpful to sit on a toilet, it helped me use gravity to relax my perineal muscles and felt familiar! Sitting on a chair or a firm birth ball can also be a great way to rest, with gravity assisting, It is a good position for a partner or doula to give massage and can be an active resting position too, Gently swaying back and forth can bring rhythmic movement to assist pain sensation.
If in the hospital, it can be a position where electronic fetal monitoring can be used.
Side Lying ~ This can feel good especially with a pillow between your legs to support our hips. I used this position during my second labor when the midwife had not yet arrived and the baby was coming fast. It can encourage a labor that is moving too fast to slow somewhat and can lower the chances of tearing and/or needing an episiotomy during birth. My own delivery had my mother's midwife telling her to 'lie on your side and you won't tear a bit! '
This position can also bring oxygen to the baby and can be used with an epidural.
Squatting ~ Keeping feet wide and steady on a flat, stable surface, you can hold on to furniture, a support person, a rebozo or a bar in front of you for stability and strength. Squatting can increase pelvic diameter by as much as 2cm, uses gravity to encourage descent and can feel like a natural position of strength for birth.
Birth partner can be sat behind squatting mother and stabilize and reassure. It really feels like someone's got your back!
Slow Dance ~ Combines the benefits of standing with restfulness and can be an intimate and rhythmical way to slow down and move or sway to contractions and music. Sensory enhancement of music and intimacy with partner can bring a rush of endorphins and oxytocin, which leads to a heightened sense of wellbeing, focus and pain reduction.
Kneeling on Hands and Knees ~ A lot of women find this position very stabilizing, and it can bring a chance for greater comfort and rest between contractions too, with the support of pillows and partners! Stacking pillows under your upper body so you can lean into, rock back and rest in child's pose and sway your hips means this position allows for a wide range of movement that feels stable at the same time.
It can be a great position for helping baby rotate and also good for partner or doulas to massage, apply compresses and do hip squeeze for any back pain.
Rebozo ~ a woven cloth used indigenously by women and midwives in Mexico and passed down through generations, to help being comfort, ease and support during pregnancy and birth. In labor the rebozo can be placed around your belly while on your hands and knees and gentle jiggling and vibration can assist the baby and bring fascia release in mama.
Spinning Babies website says;
Gentle sifting with the Rebozo aims to:
NETTLE LEAF (URTICA DIOCA):
Urtica/Nettle is one of the finest nourishing tonics, containing Chlorophyll, Vitamins A,C, D and K, Calcium, Potassium, Silica and Iron.
It is a tonic for weakness, debility, anaemia and provides nourishment for the pregnant mother and fetus.
It aids the kidneys and bladder in it's diuretic function and speeds the body's cleansing of toxins and wastes. It's astringent action can aid in checking blood and can be helpful for cuts and wounds, and therefore may be useful in a tea or sitz bath for healing the perineum after birth.
Useful in stimulating milk production as a galactagogue, and drank internally by the mother both during pregnancy, birth and afterwards.
RASPBERRY LEAF(RUBUS IDAEUS):
Increases fertility in both women and men, especially when combined with Red Clover.
Raspberry leaf is a tonic and astringent, strengthening and toning the uterine and pelvic muscles and a pelvic and uterine relaxant. It is the famous herb of use during pregnancy, and is a tonic to the whole body. Used throughout history to encourage an easy and speedy childbirth, as well as afterwards to stimulate milk production and speedy recovery.
Contains fragarine, an alkaloid that gives tone to the muscles of the pelvic region, including the uterus. Contains Vitamins A, C, E, B complex and easily assimilated Calcium and Iron, and many minerals including phosphorus and potassium.
OATSTRAW (AVENA SATIVA)
Contains high amounts of bone-building materials. A strong nutritive nervine for depression, effective herbal calcium and silica source. Strengthens nerves, and helps correct sugar use imbalances.
ALFALFA (MEDICAGO SATIVA)
High in nutrients, the richest land source of trace minerals, nourishes the digestive, skeletal, glandular and urinary systems. Helps the body eliminate excess water. Contains chlorophyll.
ROSEHIPS (ROSA CANINA)
Source of Vitamin C and Bioflavanoids and other valuable nutrients; Tonic, gentle astringent and diuretic.
RED CLOVER (TRIFOLIUM PRATENSE)
Provides nutrients, toning and supports female system. Red Clover supports circulation, which helps move blood through the reproductive organs. This boosts fertility and makes a luxurious environment for your baby to begin life. It also aids blood volume expansion, which is vital during pregnancy to make sure your baby is healthy and carried to term.
Post Partum Nutrition and Herbs
Mothering the Mother after birth is vital to her continued strength and future health, from the physical to the emotional and spiritual. The post partum period is considered the 'fourth trimester' by conscious and discerning health care practitioners. It is a period of reintegration and recuperation.
"Preparation for the fourth trimester should begin prenatally. There is nothing more important than connecting pregnant women with one another, or better still, with those who have recently given birth. Prenatal classes or support groups may serve to accomplish this, but however it happens, it is not optional."
Elizabeth Davis - Hearts and Hands.
During pregnancy, labour and birth, and afterwards with breastfeeding, a woman is giving continuously of her life force. It is vital that she is replenished afterwards to ensure her complete recovery. Elder women's wisdom speaks of proper care during the childbearing years easing the discomforts of menopause. More immediate still;
"the better she feels, the more easily she will integrate her new role and learn to distinguish the needs of her child from her own..
Care of new mothers assures survival of the species, but more than that, it positively affects the quality of life for us all"
Elizabeth Davis - Hearts and Hands.
Ain't that the truth!
Many cultures around the world stress the importance of keeping the mother warm - literally and metaphorically not leaving her out in the cold!
Women are incredibly opened by birth and susceptible to chill and energy loss. During the moon that follows birth, a woman is given only warming foods with warming spices, healing teas and tonics. She is attended by the entire family and community to ensure she has enough rest, comfort, food and herbs and assistance with household responsibilities.
The range of time spent indoors and resting ranges from culture to culture as well as needs, but the aim is restore balance through total care. Cold foods, hair washing and being in cold weather are discouraged due to the heat lost through childbirth.
Often fires were built in the rooms near the mother, or steam baths were used to bring warmth as well as healing to the perineum and pelvic area.
Pelvic Steam Baths relax spasms, bring warmth and increase circulation, nourish the internal membranes, cleanse and promote healing.
Most herbs used for the steam baths are aromatics, combined with antispasmodic, antiseptic and soothing herbs. They can be used fresh or dried. These include;
Calendula - anti microbial with wound and skin healing properties.
Lavender - antiseptic, antispasmodic, sedative, relaxing nervine.
Red Roses - astringent, relaxing, uplifting for emotional stress, sadness and depression, nervine.
Rosemary - antibacterial, stimulating, aids circulation
Basil - antispasmodic, sedative, nervine.
Lemon Balm - antispasmodic, antiseptic, nervine.
Other herbs include red raspberry leaf, myrrh, yarrow, comfrey leaf, nettles, oregano, witch hazel.
How to have a Vaginal Steam;
Add two large handfuls fresh/one handful dry herbs to about a gallon of boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Let steep for 10 minutes.
You will need to set up a way for you to sit over the pot of steaming herbs. One way is to use an open slatted chair and place the pot on the floor below you. Another is to pour the herbs into a large rimmed stainless steel bowl that can fit inside your toilet, resting on the edge underneath the seat.
Remove clothing from waist down, leave on warm socks. Sit on chair or toilet over steaming herbs and wrap yourself with a blanket from waist down. Keep upper body warm too.
Relax over steam for 20 mins, reading, journaling or meditating.
Be careful not to burn yourself.. Test the steam before sitting down!
Keep warm after the pelvic steam. It is ideal to do before bed. If you are doing it at another time, make sure to warp yourself warmly up in bed for an hour afterwards. Avoid any chills or draughts for 24 hours afterwards.
Possible side effects; May include a temporary increase in flow including more debris and dark fluids. This is seen as an effect of cleansing.
Contraindication; Do not do if pregnant, menstruating, have an acute uterine infection, vaginal sores or blisters. Never add aromatherapy essential oils to the steam as these can burn your sensitive genital tissue.
Sitz Baths are another, more commonly practiced way of using herbs to heal the perineum and vagina after birth.. The principle is essentially the same, except that the area is placed directly in the water with the herbs, and often is combined with sea salt to aid any healing of tears and soreness.
Often women were wrapped with a special cloth or band to help the uterus and internal organs and tissues back into place. This is a valuable practice that can be combined with regular massage post partum to help ease pains and bring comfort from pregnancy, labour and the after pains of the uterus contracting back into place.
Benefit of Herbs and Nutrition Post Partum;
Blood building and nourishment are essential after birth; Often this has been traditionally done by the use of soups and stews and bone broths - often using herbs that clear the afterbirth and uterus and prevent infection as well as toning and nourishing the tissues and blood. There are many recipes for nutrition after birth, that vary with culture and taste as well as availability. I am going to focus more on Herbs that are useful for tonifying, nourishing and fortifying, which include;
These are tonic herbs akin to foods, often containing vitamins and minerals in abundance. They are building and nourishing and can be taken over long periods of time.
Milky Oats - Avena Sativa.. contains Vitamin B complex which sustains our energy and soothes our nervous system. It is great for convalescence, depression, debility, exhaustion, anxiety, insomnia and is generally an excellent tonic for the overworked or overstressed, those who live on too much caffeine or nervous energy.
Alfalfa -Medicago Sativa - cooling, sweet, astringent herb that gently cleanses, controls bleeding and is rich in minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium as well as vitamins A,D, E and K as well as chlorophyll and carotene.
Nettles - Urtica Dioca - Urtica is one of the finest nourishing tonics. It is reputed to have more chlorophyll than other herbs and contains vitamins A,C, D and K, and minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, Silica and Iron. It is a nourishing tonic for weakness, debility and anaemia. Nourishing to mother and baby during and post pregnancy. Aids kidney and bladder function and gently cleanses wastes. Nettle seeds are an adrenal tonic and restorative. Astringency can help check bleeding and contains vitamin K - can be used in sitz baths after birth. Useful in stimulating and nourishing breast milk.
Gotu Kola - Hydrocolyte asiatica - good combined with other nervines, reduces nervous exhaustion whilst promoting mental clarity. A connective tissue tonic, helps restore tone to ligament and uterine tissues, as well as useful for varicose veins as a circulatory tonic.
Red Raspberry Leaf - Rubus Ideaus - Increases fertility in both men and women, especially when combined with red clover.
Raspberry leaf is astringent and tonic - strengthens and tones and relaxes uterus, and entire pelvic area. Contains fragarine - an alkaloid that gives tone to uterine muscles and indeed tones and nourishes the whole body. It is the famous herb of pregnancy and great to use before during and after birth. Contains Vitamins A, C, E, B complex and easily assimilated calcium and iron as well as phosphorus and potassium among other minerals.
Rosehips - Excellent source of vitamin C as well as astringent and diuretic, benefitting kidneys and easing constipation. Aids the absorption of iron. Contains Vit A which is useful in nourishing immune system.
Catnip - Nepeta Cataria - Gentle, relaxing, antispasmodic, great for mama and baby for both after pains as well as colic symptoms.. Can be used in gripe water with slippery elm, fennel and chamomile.
Chamomile - relaxing, anti- inflammatory, antispasmodic, good for nervous tummies. Aids relaxation and well being inside and out.
Passionflower, - relaxing sedative, night time tea, aids insomnia.
Lavender - Gentle, relaxing, soothing, good for insomnia and aids let down reflex where due to tension and stress.
Lemon Balm - Calming, aids digestion, antispasmodic, antiviral, relaxing nervine - passes through to babe.
Skullcap - On edge, excited, much on mind, new changes, overstimulation, blues, exhaustion from lack of rest.
Vervain - Helps when irritable, on edge, angry, had enough, might lose it, great combined with milky oats and skullcap in tincture. Also good for PMS, mood swings when your moon cycle starts again soon after birth.
GALACTAGOGUES - help increase the flow of breast milk.
There are many herbs that increase the flow of breast milk.. here i will focus on a few that I personally know and have used.
Vitex - Agnus castus.. a merits berry for women if ever there was one!
Vitex is a reproductive tonic that rebalances our hormones by stimulating and normalizing the pituitary gland function. It is therefore useful for PMS, menstrual cramps, menopause, and after using birth control pills, as well as a long term fertility aid. It helps with irritability, depression, headaches, anger,pms as well as menopausal symptoms - and can raise the level of progesterone in cases where women are estrogen dominant.. thus useful for shrinking fibroids, regulating cycles and aiding fertility. Improvements of various conditions can be felt in as little as two months, although more lasting results take from 6 months to a year or longer. Vitex nourishes the supply of breast milk.
Blessed Thistle - Great in the first few weeks after birth as it helps with uterine bleeding and milk irritability. Helps aid milk production by stimulating blood supply to the mammary glands and good for sluggish digestion too.. It is bitter and best taken as tincture.
Fennel Seeds - great taste, improve milk production as well as digestion.
Fenugreek Seeds - Strong maple like taste that exudes from your pores. Increases milk production fast.
Best used with alfalfa, raspberry leaf, nettles, and marshmallow root.
After Birth pains - Motherwort is great for fatigue, cramps and to aid relaxation. It is a bitter nervine, moves stuck heart and womb energy ( it is an emmenagogue, therefore not to be taken during pregnancy), great for palpitations, temperature and mood irregularities.
Calcium/Magnesium is great for after pains as is chamomile, lemon balm, oat straw, nettle, wild yam, red raspberry and partridge berry..
Stronger herbs include cramp bark and black haw and blue cohosh - relaxes smooth muscles in uterus and whole pelvic area. Relieves and reduces after pains.
Dandelion Root, Yellow dock root, Nettles, Rosehips..
Yellow Dock root helps the body retain Iron, rose hips contain Vitamin C. which increases Iron absorption.
After Birth Tea;
Oranges, lemons, Ginger, Cardamon, Cinnamon sticks, Lemongrass, Raspberry, Borage, Star Anise and Honey.
Grate ginger, add cinnamon sticks and star anise to a large pot of water, bring to boil and simmer for 25 mins. Add oranges and lemons for ten minutes. Add rest of the ingredients and let steep. Strain and add honey. If you prefer this can be made with red wine instead of as a tea.
For Shakes, chills, sweats after birth , grate fresh ginger root and steep for 10-15 mins with 2tsp panax ginseng and dried licorice root.
Also Cinnamon tea - 1/2 tsp powder to 1 cup water or milk. Sweeten with honey if desired.
HERBS FOR LABOUR
While there should be absolutely no judgment over what type of birth you prefer or require, it’s worth considering the natural tools that can help you avoid preventable birth interventions. @avivaromm
It can feel like there is a lot of judgement or standards around how we birth as women. First and Foremost, we say, our babies should be healthy. And yet, there is the very real journey of us as women, how we will react to the pain, and tolerate the unknown length of time, how we birth our feelings of entering one end of a ritual as a woman and the other end as a mother. (If this is our first time). How we will adjust to the demands of multiple children. There can be added pressures of existing health conditions, how our health care providers will respond, whether we will be allowed to birth as we want or feel supported in those decisions. Where the boundary is between what we wish for and what we might medically need, as opposed to the convenience of the health care providers that so often comes up today in a medicalized birth setting. So many variables, and yet, our bodies have been birthing since time immemorial, and as my midwife said to me, “if we just get out of our own way..’ Our bodies know how to birth.
Even so, preparation is needed to help support our bodies physically and emotionally to create good conditions for birth.
Ultimately, the wisdom of herbal medicine for birth lies in nourishing the mother and supporting our own natural systems to function at their best. This means a healthy diet, good rest and sleep, regular exercise, hydration and relaxation on a physical level.
On a mental and emotional level, it means gathering information about your local birth resources, insurance, how your hospital responds to birth, if you plan to birth in a hospital, taking a tour there to know the lay out and what to expect from them, making a birth plan and making copies for your partner, health care providers including doctors, midwives, doulas and nurses.
Make a plan for how you might cope during the intensity of labour. If you are considering a home birth, hospital birth or birth centre, it is useful to go over different positions that can help during labour, different pressure applied to your lower back to ease sensation or learning which herbs and homeopathic medicines may be helpful at different points. It can be a great source of support and comfort to have a doula or midwife that knows about herbal medicine and can help ‘mother the mother’ as she transitions through this major life event. Outsourcing different comfort measures and making a plan allows for the birthing woman to feel supported, and at ease as she goes through the terrain of deepening contractions, so she can sink into deep body realms and to know that she will be met on the way, without having to micro manage details.
Helpful Herbs during the last 6 weeks;
Certain herbs and foods are ‘partus preparators’ which means they tone and prepare the womb for delivery.
These include Red Raspberry leaf, which you can take in a tea blend from the second trimester onwards.
While RRL doesn’t actually appear to be very effective at stimulating or shortening labor, research has found that drinking RRL tea or taking capsules can have a number of benefits.
The results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial consisting of 192 low-risk, first-time moms found that RRL tablets, taken daily starting at 32 weeks' pregnancy until labor, reduced the rate of forceps deliveries while another study found that raspberry leaf was associated with:
Partridge berry - Mitchella Repens - Squaw Vine.
I used this herb for all three of my baby’s births, during the last month of pregnancy. It helped shorten the length of labour and seemed to smooth out contractions so that they were more effectual.
This is what Henriette Kress has to say;
“If a good preparation of mitchella be administered once or twice daily for the sixth and seventh months of pregnancy, three times daily for the eighth month, and in larger doses as confinement approaches, the influence upon the entire system will be most marked. I have observed this influence in so many cases that doubt is impossible. Erratic pains and unsatisfied longings are removed, the nervous system assumes a tranquil condition, reflex symptoms abate, the urinary function is performed normally, the bowels become regular, imperfect digestion is improved, and the appetite becomes natural. Labor approaches, devoid of the irritating, aggravating complications, the preparatory stage is simple, the dilatation is completed quickly, the expulsive contractions are strong, unirritating, and effectual, and are much less painful than without the remedy; involution is rapid and perfect, there are no subsequent complicating conditions to contend with, the patient's strength is not abated, and the function of lactation is in its best condition. This has been proven in very many cases. After making the above statements, evidences accumulated rapidly confirming their truth.
Auxiliary measures such as judicious dieting, a thorough oiling of the enlarged abdomen, and an occasional hot sitz bath for the last few weeks will materially assist the remedy. Less of it need be taken.
Dates are often a food used in traditional cultures, especially Iran, to help ripen the cervix for birth - taken best six weeks before due date to help increase dilation, lessen the need for induction and decrease the length of the first stage of labour. Red dates and deglet noor dates specifically, medjool dates probably fine too. Eat 6-8 a day starting around week 37 until delivery. Dates contain fibre, vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates. Also helpful as a labour snack to aid energy and nutrition.
There is often anxiety of the timing of the due date. OBGyns often do not like to go more than a week over the due date before they start talking about interventions such as induction, however Midwives may support a more natural human gestation zone of two weeks after expected due date, barring medical necessity of course. Fortunately there are many tricks of the trade to help labour get going and herbal assistance if desired.
During my second pregnancy I was assisted by midwives that knew about homeopathic preparations to help labour start. I have used this myself and successfully for other women too. I love that it feels safe and there aren’t risk factors associated with homeopathy in any way. I say this thinking fo the safety factor associated with Blue Cohosh that is cautioned against using for labour. It is a root that was used by Native Americans for labour, likely in ways that were known to be safer than in our current context. Homeopathic Blue Cohosh however works in combination with other remedies and poses no danger, due to the dilution to imperceptible levels.
Here is the Labour Preparation regimen; Take up to 10 days before but often works in 3 or 4 days.
Homeopathic Arnica, Gelsemium, Caulophyllum, Cimicifuga, Pulsatilla - all remedies are 30c Add one or two pellets to water and take one sip a day every day around the same time, for up to 10 days.