An Ayurvedic approach to post natal care
Having a baby is one of life's miracles. An experience for which I can honestly say I feel totally blessed. Growing a baby and giving birth can bring on a whole host of emotions which are all completely normal, ranging from joy, bliss and excitement, to nervousness, fatigue and vulnerability.
This blog post is here to help you as the new Mum look after yourself. Looking after you is vital in ensuring you can care for your little bundle of joy. These are very simple Ayurvedic approaches which I have practised after the birth of my son and now my daughter, so I know they work!
Firstly what is Ayurveda? It is a holistic system of medicine, considered to be the sister science to yoga, which is widely practised in India and has been practised for over 5000 years. Ayurveda aims to bring a person into balance through diet, herbs, physical postures (asanas in yoga) and breathing techniques. It is a practical system which promotes self-healing through balancing the energies within the body.
The first three months after giving birth are extremely important to any new Mum. During this time there is a lot happening in the body to help recover and repair; the uterus will shrink back to it's normal position, ligaments, muscles and tendons start to regain strength. You as a new Mum will also start to regain mental strength having dealt with fatigue and baby blues.
There are many approaches to help gain a healthy recovery, but below are my top 4:
In the first six weeks after giving birth, the most important activity for both Mum and baby is rest. Resting wherever possible is a must, even if it is only for 5-10 minutes. Particularly with demand feeding through the night, you will need your strength! In modern living we are always "doing", always "on the go". We need to be ok with simply being in the present moment with baby and giving yourself permission to rest and relax whenever you can. Accept help from close friends and family to allow you to take some rest wherever you can and avoid saying yes to too many visitors and feeling the need to be the perfect host. This is something I soon realised I did not have to be!
2. ABDONIMAL WRAP
It is helpful to wear a wrap/belt around your belly and lumbar spine after giving birth. This can help reduce swelling, tighten overstretched muscles and help them regain strength, give your back more support and in turn decrease aches and pains. This has been practised by many cultures over thousands of years, not just in Ayurveda. I found this particularly beneficial for the two weeks after giving birth to both my son and daughter. For my son I used a scarf which I tied tightly, however with my daughter I used a haramaki (Japanese tummy wrap made from 97% cotton and 3% polyurethane). Not only can it give support after pregnancy, but also when you feel the added weight of baby.
3. WARM LAVENDER BATH
Having a nicely warmed bath is time out for you to totally relax. Add 10 drops of Lavender to a full bath, light a candle and enjoy! Lavender is a well-known essential oil for it's healing properties such as antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, to name but a few. Research has shown that it aids relaxation, sleep and skin regeneration. Lavender has also been said to help repair the perineum (which often tears during labour or can be cut during an episiotomy) and aid in reducing haemorrhoids.
You do not need to book in for weekly massages and spend a fortune. In Ayurvedic medicine, self massage is considered to be just as important in creating balance and improving your overall wellness. Try to massage yourself daily, ideally using warm oils such as plain sesame or almond oil. Pay particular attention to gentally massaging your belly. I personally found that massaging coconut oil after having a bath or shower worked well for me.
It is important not to rush into intense exercise and crazy diets soon after giving birth. Your body has been through a lot, both physically and mentally. I always advise to wait until you have had your 6 week check before embarking on strong exercise. Use the first 6 weeks to rest and recover where possible and fill yourself with nourishing healthy food to give you the strength to look after baby. In the first 6 weeks after giving birth, gentle exercises can include walking and pelvic floor exercises. Meditation is always great for mental health, particularly after having a baby.
For more information about Ayurveda I recommend reading a very simple and practical book; "Ayurveda, The Science of Self-Healing" by Dr. Vasant Lad