Birth Recovery: How a mother delivers her baby has a big impact on her postpartum experience. A paper published by the American Psychiatric Association in May of 2023 makes mention of several studies indicating birth-related PTSD impacting around 17% of postpartum parents. A survey of over 200 UK health-care practitioners working with parents in the first postnatal year identified birth trauma in 34.4% of mothers and 25.0% of partners. Considering that the assessment for birth trauma was only conducted for 50.3% of mothers and 25.9% of partners, the reported number can be a lot higher. Acupuncture is very well-known for its effectiveness in treating stress and PTSD. The NADA protocol, which is used a lot in our clinic, is used world-wide to treat stress and PTSD.
The undisturbed physiologic birth is powered by an array of intrinsic hormones that guide the mother through the birthing experience. Oxytocin, for example, signals uterine contraction, promotes lactation, slows down postpartum uterine bleeding, and initiates bonding between mother and baby. Care providers who support physiologic birth are more likely to intervene as minimally as possible. As a result, the mother and the baby have a less traumatic experience. Locally, I work closely with the California Birth Center , a natural birthing center, where I am referred patients for labor induction, breech babies, and postpartum.
Lochia or Postpartum Bleeding: Lochia is the name given to the vaginal discharge coming from the placental site. Lochia is usually divided into 3 stages: The first stage of postpartum bleeding is Rubra (dark red) and can last up to four days postpartum. The second stage is Serosa (pinkish-brown) and it can last between 4 to 10 days. The last stage is Alba (whitish-yellow) and it can last between 10 to 28 days. While postpartum bleeding is normal, signs of complication might include excessively heavy, bleeding that persists longer than expected, or is accompanied by severe pain, foul odor, or other concerning symptoms. A randomized controlled trial where 70 cases of cesarean section where randomly divided into an acupuncture group and a control group, concluded that: "Acupuncture promotes uterine contraction, reduces postpartum blood loss and lochia duration and benefits uterine involution after cesarean section".
Postpartum Depression: Postpartum depression (PPD) is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that happen in some women after giving birth. It is believed that the rapid drop in hormones after delivery is the main cause of PPD. The levels of estrogen and progesterone, which have increased tenfold during pregnancy, drop sharply after delivery - reaching back to what they were before pregnancy 3 days after giving birth.
As of 2018 there have been at least 12 randomized controlled trials looking at the effect of acupuncture in mood disorders in the postpartum period. A meta-analysis study that looked at 887 patients with postpartum depression concluded that: "Patients in the acupuncture group had significantly better performances assessed by the Hamilton Depression Scale than those in the control group".
Lactation: During pregnancy, prolactin - the hormone responsible for milk synthesis, is being blocked by progesterone and estrogen. The rapid fall of these two hormones after birth, initiates milk secretion. Oxytocin, another hormone that plays an important role in lactation, causes the muscles around the breast to contract stimulating milk ejection. As a baby suckles, the levels of prolactin and oxytocin increase, creating more milk and causing the milk-making glands in the breast to contract.
A systematic review of 25 randomized controlled trials was conducted to assess the effectiveness of ear acupuncture (or ear acupressure using ear seeds) on lactation. The review concluded that: "women in the auricular therapy group lactated earlier than their counterparts in the control group and the risk of low milk production was reduced while on auricular therapy".
The Sitting Month: In virtually all traditional cultures, a period of 4-6 weeks is designated as the postpartum recovery period. During this time, a new mother is cared for by elders and family members, fed special foods and encouraged to rest, recover and bond with her baby. It is a time to transition to motherhood while honoring the profound physical and emotional changes that come from birth and pregnancy, giving the mother an opportunity to fully recover before resuming normal life.
Initial visit (includes treatment): $180
Subsequent treatments: $90
There are many physiological, psychological, and physical changes that take place after giving birth. It is important to remember that this period could last up to 6 months. The Chinese use the term "zuo yue zi" ("sitting month") to remind a new mother to stay at home for one month to allow her body to rest after giving birth. During this time the new mother is taken care of by relatives and friends, special foods are recommended, as well as gentle exercises and acupuncture.