I was in my local soup shop yesterday, reading an article in Cookie Magazine about postpartum anxiety when I realized that I see more people suffering from postpartum anxiety than postpartum depression. The need for new parents to wear so many hats is definitely taking its toll on our sanity. People are also waiting longer to have babies and requiring more and more assisted reproductive technology. On top of that we are supposed to have thriving careers, perfect bodies, and clean homes…how can we do it all?
In Chinese Medicine birthing is considered the biggest drain of essence or jing.
Jing is basically your battery reserve of strength for life. Everyone is born with a certain amount at birth and the levels are steadily used to sustain life. Jing essence is exceedingly difficult to replace (some ancients believe that qi gong, meditation, and a few supplements like cordyceps can do so).
Jing is drawn steadily from the kidneys to support the aging process and is burned rapidly through stressful events, medications, and stimulants that tap the adrenals. It is far better to pull the energy you need from the food you eat and sleep you get than use your reserves.
In order to do everything that you can to preserve Jing traditional culture recommends rising with the sun and sleeping with the setting sun, resting during the menses, avoiding intercourse during the menses, and refraining from stimulants.
Postpartum anxiety is a syndrome where the mother is overly anxious and may even suffer from paranoid thoughts or obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Some anxious new parents who have just given birth have sleep disorders and physical issues like palpitations or a sense of panic. Many are stressed about the well-being of the baby and some may even fear that they could harm their baby. If you feel like this and your condition persists for more than two weeks or you have thoughts of harming your baby, you should speak with your doctor immediately.
From a Chinese medicine point of view, postpartum people are extremely blood deficient. The body’s blood volume has practically doubled throughout pregnancy to support the fetus; the hair gets luxurious, nails long, and strong and little wrinkles disappear. Postpartum is a different story. Childbirth itself is pretty bloody-especially if you have had a C-section. Nursing also depletes the body’s fluid levels. When blood and fluid levels get low there is a phenomenon in Chinese medicine called Liver Blood or Heart Blood/Yin Deficiency. This can manifest as disturbed sleep, palpitations, dry mouth, agitation, anxiety, trouble concentrating…
Chinese medicine treats postpartum anxiety really well. There are many classical herbal formulas to address both the root and symptom of postpartum anxiety or if you are concerned about taking herbs and nursing acupuncture alone may be the way to go.
Dietary therapy is helpful as well. I always make sure new parents are taking:
- Fish Oil
- Floradix: veggie iron supplement
- Eating foods that nourish the Kidneys (home to Jing Essence): black beans, fish, black sesame seeds, molasses, seaweed
- Also consider: dandelion and nettles (easily available in tea form) to boost iron and calcium.