What happens to the body after pregnancy?

A lot of new mums ask me how to restore their body after pregnancy and the breastfeeding phase, whereby they feel depleted and experience body changes. Especially for women after IVF treatment the postpartum period can be very challenging. Here are some brief concerns that we discuss and address at the clinic:

Hair Loss

Mums experience hair loss very soon after the baby is born. Usually we do lose up to 100 hairs a day, however due to hormonal factors such as Gonadotropin hormones ( FSH, Luteinising ), androgenic and thyroxin levels, rise during pregnancy so women’s hair grows stronger and thicker. When the pregnancy is over, the body is not able to maintain the hormonal stimulation and so a phase of hair loss is possible. Since the resting phase is followed by regrowth, new mothers will gain normal hair development again. From a Chinese medicine perspective the hair loss is attributed to the deficiency of the Kidneys and Blood deficiency due to constant support of the pregnancy all these months ending up to deficiency. The depleted signs are particularly noticeable particularly in older women, or those who had fertility issues due to poor egg quality, hormonal irregularities, or other underlying factors which resulted in procedures such as IVF (in-vitro fertilization). Blood and/or yin deficiency can also lead to excessive hair loss, headaches, dizziness, skin allergies or spots around the mouth, anxiety or depression.

See more on how ear acupuncture could help with postpartum signs and symptoms.

Breast Changes

During the breastfeeding phase the breast become enlarged and tender. Once the new mum decides to stop breastfeeding this swelling calms down and the breasts will probably begin to lose their plump shape resulting in sagginess and stretch marks. They may also experience milk leakage for some time, after breastfeed period. The quantity of milk during breastfeeding will indicate the depletion levels of the Spleen according the Chinese view. The Spleen which fundamentally supports the blood and energy formation in order to produce sufficient placenta and milk to support the foetus is often weakened after pregnancy with symptoms such as digestive irregularities and possibly poor breast milk production. Disturbed sleep could also (except from baby’s sleeping routine) refer to deficient Spleen energy and Heart blood deficiency. Lack of energy and non -productive sleep could also contribute in postpartum depression. Therefore supporting the digestive system and maximising its ability to provide sufficient nutrients, is very important after pregnancy.

See more on how acupuncture can help with postpartum body balance.

Lower Back Pain

During pregnancy the abdominal muscles are weakened and over-streched forcing the body to compensate using mostly the muscles of the back, resulting to a backache. A poor posture during pregnancy or an underlying structural issue can manifest lower back concerns that can easily be addressed with acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation.

See more on our post pregnancy musculoskeletal concerns.

Incontinence and Constipation

During pregnancy the bladder is overactive due to the pressure from the baby, however after the baby is born pressure on the urethra during delivery may result in postpartum urination problems. Such as incontinence or urinary tract infections, can cause a burning sensation during urination and vaginal mucus. Deficiency of Kidneys and Bladder with some damp heat consequences can become an issue. Bowel movement can also be an issue especially after C section or taking painkillers during labour. Prenatal supplementation or even over-breast feeding can lead to constipation and in some cases lead to haemorrhoids. During pregnancy progesterone hormone levels increase slowing down bowel movement. However as hormones start going back to more normal levels bowel movement should be restored. This happens as the blood and fluids of the body are depleted and it takes some time for the body to restore its functions.

Discuss post pregnancy digestive concerns with our nutritionist.

Puffy legs – formation of Varicose Veins

Very commonly during pregnancy mums experience swollen legs and varicose veins which may continue postpartum. This is because of the pregnancy weight gain and lymphatic circulation as well as the fluid retention that happens during pregnancy indicating the Spleen weakness at this point. Restless legs can be a residue of the pregnancy period which can be alleviated with exercise and walking. Varicose veins however are difficult to get rid of and aesthetic procedure may be considered for temporary results. After pregnancy sweating at night is the natural process of hormonal decline and the need of the body to balance fluid circulation that has been disrupted. Some new mothers mention that they have a bit more energy than during the pregnancy and some others struggling with their weight loss, feeling sluggish and tired.

Key herbs to support the body after pregnancy and breastfeeding

Dang Gui: This is a very popular Chinese root that is included in many soups or teas in China to nourish the Blood and facilitate blood circulation. It moistens the body, moving the bowels and treats Blood deficiency that may manifest as anaemia, improving haemoglobin and red blood cell levels. Also decreases swelling and moves and improves Blood flow and fluids. It also restores. It is available in a tincture or standardised encapsulated form.

Aswagandha: During pregnancy, some women begin to produce high levels of thyroid hormones, followed by a very rapid decline resulting in postpartum thyroiditis. Usually after giving birth the condition goes away with some time. Aswagandha works as an adaptogen to regulate thyroid function and bring the hormone levels back to normal. With potent anti-inflammatory and blood sugar regulating benefits this herb can help new mums to address fatigue, sleep issues, foggy head, immune system weakness and benefit the nervous system.

Astragalus: This very important adaptogenic herb can help with energy levels and if taken with Dang Gui can effectively nourish the blood and immune system of the body, regaining strength. It is used to improve appetite, encourage digestion and alleviate fatigue, shortness of breath, spontaneous sweating, weakness and cystitis.

Nettle: Nettle is a very nourishing tonic herb. It is very rich in chlorophyll and contains vitamins A,C, D and K, as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, Silica and Iron. It assists kidney and bladder function as a mild diuretic and gently detoxifies the blood. It can also prevent haemorrhoids and soften bowel movement.

Nutrition plays a vital role during the postpartum period. It is important to include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, salmon, turkey, and soy foods, dairy products especially from goat or sheep, dark leafy greens rich in iron such as Kale, Spinach, broccoli, collard greens, and turnips. Vegetables rich in vitamin C and B such as peppers, guavas, berries, kiwis as well as fermented beans and vegetables and mushrooms to help with B12 vitamin levels.