In the world of Western Medicine postpartum disorders are divided into three neat packages: Postpartum Blues, Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis.
Postpartum Blues is the mildest form of disorder and is thought to affect up to 85% of new moms. This disorder includes symptoms such as: irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and tearfulness. Symptoms are reported to start 3-5 days after delivery and then subside once hormone levels stabilize in a few weeks.
Postpartum Depression is said to emerge over the first several postpartum months and is indistinguishable from any other kind of depression. This disorder can affect up to 25% of women and includes symptoms such as depression, anxiety, feelings of guilt/worthlessness/incompetence, sadness, decreased sex drive, insomnia or sleep changes, poor concentration, obsessive-compulsive behavior, problems with memory, fatigue, unwanted/intrusive thoughts about your baby, or changes in appetite.
Postpartum Psychosis is the most severe from of postpartum disorder. This disorder is said to affect only 1 or 2 women out of 1000 and begins as soon as 48-72 hours after delivery. The symptoms include unwanted/intrusive thoughts of harming your baby or self, erratic behavior, auditory hallucinations, bi-polar episodes, and disorientation.
Unfortunately for many women, Western Medicine does not have a grasp on the cause of postpartum illnesses and has little to offer those in need of treatment. The most widely used therapies are anti-depressants and counseling. However, antidepressants are known to express in breast milk and may be harmful to immature livers while counseling can do little if a woman’s psychological state is rooted in her physiological health.
In my clinical experience, I have found three discrepancies with Western Medicine. One is that postpartum disorders do not fit neatly into three different categories. Two, the estimates of those who suffer from postpartum disorders is very low. And three, many moms don’t notice their symptoms until several months to a year (or even longer) after birth. Sometimes the new mom is simply too tired from a lack of sleep and too busy with her new responsibilities to notice her own state of mind has shifted. Other women notice the some difference or disturbance but assume that the changes will resolve on their own. Still others are too embarrassed or ashamed by her negative thoughts to admit them to anyone.
In Chinese Medicine, postpartum disorders are a result of blood loss and trauma during labor (yes, although a natural phenomena childbirth is still a trauma to a woman’s body). The loss of blood not only includes the volume of blood excreted from the body, but also the placenta that is extinguished after birth. The placenta, while made to nourish and maintain the health of the fetus, is a product of the mother’s blood and qi; the loss of such an organ (along with a baby) that has been present for the better part of 9 months leaves the mother depleted of her most vital substances.
You blood is responsible for nourishing the heart; the heart is where your mind resides. Blood deficiency can lead to a malnourished heart, which can lead to symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, sadness, mental fog, dizziness, low blood pressure, and unwanted thoughts. Our qi encompassed not only our body’s energy but also its vital force. Qi deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, digestion upset, and the inability to make blood.
To replenish blood and qi after childbirth, the Chinese developed a very strict regiment to follow after birthing. Each new mother is instructed to rest for one month, ingest her placenta, and take herbal medicine, refrain from washing her hair and comply with a strict diet of particular foods that are known to improve the production of qi and blood.
Here at Yao, we understand that American women don’t always have the support or ability to care for themselves in such a stringent manner. Our goal is to ensure you are getting the nourishment and rest that you need. Our New Mommy package includes six acupuncture treatments, 2 massages, and 1 facial; it was designed with the idea that new moms not only need to be pampered but they need careful monitoring and support after pregnancy to heal in the most efficient manner to guarantee their own well-being and health.
Happy moms = happy babies.
Written by Michelle Luiz, LAc YAO Medicine