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Community Acupuncture for Postpartum Healing

By Marika Hall, BA, HDP, R.Ac.

It is believed in Chinese Medicine that proper healing in the postpartum period can lead to a graceful menopause, greater health overall and even recovery from previous illness and chronic dis-ease. In many traditional practices including traditional Chinese medicine, the mother and baby were left from 4 to 6 weeks to recover and build their bond. Family and friends would bring food, clean, keep mom and baby warm and away from cold, wind and the outer world, in order to protect the new family from illness, over exertion and emotional overwhelm. In some cases the mother was not even allowed to bath. Her only job was to eat, rest and learn the language of her new baby. In our modern world we know it is good to bath on occasion and getting some gentle exercise is very important to help in both physical healing and mental well-being. But the general principles behind these practice are still important to keep both moms and babies healthy, encourage recovery and bonding and lead to long term health outcomes.

While most put lots of emphasis on the birth plan and what the nursery will look like, not many think about those tender weeks, months and first year of recovery and transformation, love and grief, confusion and joy. It truly takes a village to support a new family in this period of time and I encourage all my clients to sit down and make a plan in advance. Asking friends and family to help cook food, do chores, run errands and give a family space to find their new groove.

While mothers often look to massage or acupuncture during pregnancy to help ease discomforts and improve health, after the baby comes, mothers often put that self-care aside to focus on the baby. But if the mother is not cared for, the baby suffers too! This is why I offer postnatal community acupuncture at Mothering Touch. You are welcome to bring your baby, and to receive your treatment in community, as you care for, cuddle and feed your baby.

Reducing pain and inflammation

The body’s natural response to going through the hard work of labour, the stretching and sometimes tearing of tissues, the hours of squatting and pushing is to send fluid and immune cells to these tissues to repair them. This insurgence causes inflammation which causes pain. In order to reduce the pain we want to reduce the inflammation by helping the healing of tissues. Good nutrition is key to repairing the skin and building new vessels and cells, especially helpful is bone broth and collagen.

One of my favourite and safest ways to speed healing, reduce inflammation and pain is with acupuncture. Acupuncture works by stimulating neurotransmitters that modulate pain, release tight muscles and helps the body find the optimum path to healing. Ideally, having acupuncture in your home three days after your delivery is best to promote healing and well being.

Keeping the emotions balanced

In TCM, Our emotional well-being is controlled by the liver who is responsible for the smooth flow of all our fluids, mental, emotional and physical energy. So if we get stuck in a mental or emotional rut or don’t move enough our qi becomes stagnated causing the liver to become upset and stagnate further. As we know post birth there has been lots of qi and blood lost and the change in our hormones, sleep schedules and need to rest can lead to further qi stagnation and emotional imbalance.

One of my favourite uses of acupuncture is in balancing the emotions. In fact, in Chinese medicine each emotions is associated with a different organ. Long term emotional imbalance can injure the organs as can injure organs lead to emotional imbalance but lucky it is quite easy to help the qi move smoothly and find the correct path again, relieving anxiety, depression, worry, sadness, fear, shock, anger and over stimulation.

Receiving acupuncture in community with other mothers helps to normalize the experiences of pregnancy, labour and the postpartum. It help us to feel less alone. It creates a safe place we can come back to again and again for healing and restoration.

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Find out more about Marika at her website www.marikareidhall.com

Medical Disclaimer

Information in this post and on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. The information is a result of practice experience and research by the author. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional.

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September

Mothers and Babies siting on the floor

Happy September!

Such a great times of new beginnings – school, work, fall harvests, Jewish New Year…

Here at Mothering Touch, we have a refreshed and renewed Calendar of Pre and Postnatal Yoga and Fitness for you and your babies and toddlers. Drop-in Classes are $16 – but if you buy a punch card of 10 classes, they are only $13 each!

Come and try out Prenatal Yoga – a great way to get in touch with your body and stay moving as your pregnancy progresses. Our Postnatal Yoga classes all welcome babies – and we have graded them, so that they become more challenging and strengthening as your baby gets older. And if you want something more up-beat, try our new Postnatal Strength and Stretch with Renee on Tuesdays! As your babies become toddlers, come and try out Yoga DESPITE the Toddlers (where the teacher guides the parents through poses, while distracting and amusing the kids), or Yoga FOR Toddlers (where the kids learn yoga too!).

Our Drop-In Baby Groups are starting up again too. For the first time in 15 years, we are raising the price on those – to a whole $3! It’s totally worth it, though, to sit with other parents whose babies are the same age as yours, and to hear their worries, their questions, and get their opinions and support with your concerns. It’s a great place to make new friends for this new chapter in your life.

Pregnancy Happy Hour is also a great place to make new friends. Friday evenings, from 5-6:30 (Don’t worry if work makes you arrive a little late – doesn’t bother us!) Pregnant people get together to chat about pregnancy and its highs and lows, along with an experience childbirth educator/doula who can answer questions and help find resources. We laugh a lot!

Motherhood Circle is starting up again too. This weekly, registered therapeutic group is for women who want to explore their experiences as new mothers and build community in a supported and nurturing environment. Theresa Gulliver, a therapeutic counsellor, runs the groups with sensitivity and skill. And if your baby is now over a year, join Theresa for Motherhood Circle 2.0 and explore the challenges and joys of the toddler years.

At the end of the week, on Fridays from 2-5pm, our acupuncturist, Marika Hall, runs a Community Acupuncture clinic. It’s a great place to get some TLC after a long week of work! The discomforts of pregnancy and of the postpartum body can be alleviated in the comfy zero-gravity chairs. If your pregnancy is coming to its end, cervical ripening acupuncture can help labour start in good time, or help a scheduled induction work more smoothly. If your baby has been born, bring them along. Marika is happy to work around your baby as you hold, cuddle or nurse.

September – so many riches – so much to try. Come and join us, and experience the support of the Mothering Touch!

 

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The Power of Community Acupuncture for Birth and Beyond

The first time I experienced Community Acupuncture was when I was living in South Korea. As a public school English teacher I received health benefits that included Chinese Medicine for a mere $5. After a friend’s recommendation I went to see her Doctor. I walked into a beautiful office and was lead into a large treatment room with beds and chairs all around, some with curtains for privacy and others open to the room. I was led to a bed and made comfortable. The doctor did my intake and the needles were carefully inserted. Meanwhile all around I could hear, see, and feel the other patients. The room was abuzz with all the healing patients were experiencing. It was such a unique experience for me at the time, having always seen a doctor in a private room. Here healing was not a private thing to be endured alone, but was a communal experience. Family members could be with their loved ones, and in their common desire to heal each patient offered a smile and nod to each other.

When I returned home it was several years before the first community acupuncture clinics began popping up in Vancouver. Though this model was slightly different, the decor was more western, no family members were around, and there were no curtains, the energy was still the same: the energy of people coming together to heal in community for an affordable price. It is important for us to be reminded that we are not alone on our journeys, that others also have difficulties and challenges. This can build our resilience. This is most crucial throughout the journey of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. This is a time when we need to find our inner strength and be supported by those who have walked the path before us and those who are walking it with us. Gathering together and sharing the experience of pregnancy; the joys, the worries, the aches and pains, the nausea, the flickering of fetuses, can make our experiences much richer and more bearable.

In the final weeks of pregnancy, as we prepare for birth we look to our sisters, mothers, friends, aunties and peers for support and reassurance. At this time community acupuncture can help your body prepare for birth. Cervical ripening, sometimes called pre-birth acupuncture, begins at 36-37 weeks gestation. It consists of a series of treatments given once a week, based on your unique experience. Specific points are chosen on the hands, arms, legs and feet to help support the body’s natural process of preparing for birth while balancing any discomforts that you may be experiencing with your pregnancy.

 

Some of the benefits of pre-birth acupuncture include:

  • Cervical softening/ripening/dilation
  • Increasing blood flow to the Uterus
  • Supporting, regulating hormonal levels leading up to labour, including enhancing oxytocin release
  • Calming the mind and balancing emotions – fear & anxiety prior to childbirth, post-partum depression
  • Encouraging optimal fetal positioning and/or addressing breech/posterior positioning
  • Potentially decreasing pain and exhaustion during labour
  • Enhancing efficiency of labour, and shortening active labour
  • Reducing the rates of medical interventions
  • Addressing ongoing issues throughout pregnancy such as musculo-skeletal pain, gestational diabetes, edema, anemia, etc.
  • Potentially a faster recovery, less complications following childbirth
  • Promoting lactation, supporting breastfeeding

Throughout my own pregnancy I received acupuncture for a variety of discomforts but it was the cervical ripening treatments in community acupuncture that allowed me to take the time and space to settle into my body, to be reminded of all the women who went before me and connect into all the support that existed in my own community. Research has shown that cervical ripening acupuncture can create a more effective and shorter labour with a reduced rate of medical interventions. My experience as a mother, doula and treating women in clinic supports these findings.

I am delighted to be offering community acupuncture at Mothering Touch on Friday afternoons from 2:00-5pm. I invite you to come and be apart of this affordable community healing experience.

 

Marika Reid Hall BA HDP RAc

 

References:

Kubista E Kucera H. (1974) Geburtshilfe Perinatol; 178 224-9

Rabl M, et al. (2001) Acupuncture for cervical ripening and induction of labour at term – a  randomised controlled trail. Wien Klin Wochenschr; 113 (23-24): 942-6

Tempfer C, et al. (1998) Influence of acupuncture on duration of labour Gynecol Obstet Invest; 46:22-5

Betts D, Lennox S. (2006) Acupuncture for prebirth treatment: An observational study of its use in midwifery practice. Medical acupuncture May; 17(3):17-20

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Put on your OWN oxygen mask!             

It’s become a well-worn cliche to say that you have to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. But that doesn’t make it any less true. And it is the hardest lesson to learn when you become a parent. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your kids.

During pregnancy, parents are often quite good about self-care, going to exercise or yoga classes, acupuncture or massage. It’s easy to justify because caring for the pregnant parent means caring for the baby too. But once the baby is a separate person, moms often feel that spending time away from the baby and spending money on care for themselves is “selfish.”

My memory of those early years, is that when I went away and exercised or sang, or had coffee with a friend, or had a massage, I came back a kinder, more patient parent. I gave myself more generously for having been selfish for a couple of hours.

In order to encourage self-care among the parents in the Mothering Touch community, we have created a couple of treatment rooms, and we are offering various complementary therapies, provided by skilled and certified practitioners. Jenny Jackson, Registered Dietitian, is offering Nutritional Counselling. Jill Moran, Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Doctor is offering Acupuncture. Theresa Gulliver, Therapeutic Counsellor is offering Counselling Sessions. And  Dr. Shannon Dodson (who teaches our Prenatal Fitness Class) is offering Chiropractic for pregnancy, the postpartum, and for babies. In the next few months, we will add massage and reflexology to our roster.

You can book online from our website. Or you can call us and we will help you over the phone. and if you aren’t ready yet for your baby to be too far away from you, you could have your partner/sister/best-friend/mother-in-law sit in our lounge (we call it The Nest) and cuddle the baby while you have your special time in the lovely, peaceful, quiet, treatment room.

    ~ Eva