Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer
Post-pregnancy, there's a lot going on. You have a brand-new baby to get to know, learn to breastfeed, and care for. You still have your home and possibly other children that need care. And of course, there's the physical recovery from pregnancy. I always thought it seemed a little unfair that I was expected to be fully responsible for a tiny person when I was physically drained from pregnancy, labor, and birth! (Although after three babies, the real drain is keeping up with "everything else," not the new baby!)
It's so important to take care of yourself as much as possible in the early days and weeks, though, so that you don't suffer a physical or mental illness postpartum. You won't be any good for anyone else if you're worn out and dragged down.
Go slow and pamper yourself. Beg for help from anyone who will come and stay. (My husband stayed for two weeks after each of my babies, and my mom stayed for an additional two weeks. My in-laws also stayed for about five days after my third baby was born, largely to care for my older children.)
There are things you can do to help recover from pregnancy, though, that are natural, safe, and frugal. If possible, have these things on hand prior to labor so no one's scrambling when you're home with a new baby!
Natural Aids in Recovery
Soothing Herbal Bath -- If you're at home when your baby is born, plan to take an herbal bath within an hour or so of giving birth. If you are not, take one as soon as you get home. Have someone else draw a very warm bath for you and slip this in. It will help to heal your sore tissues.
Comfrey Ice Packs -- Cut a large piece of soft cloth (flannel is fine, but bamboo velour is awesome) and fold it up into a smaller rectangle that's about 3x5. Sew it on all four sides (straight stitch and no big deal if you mess up). Prepare a strong tea with about 2 cups water and 1/2 c. comfrey leaves, steeped for 15 min. Soak each cloth in the tea and put each in an individual plastic bag and stick this in the freezer. (I recommend putting all the small plastic bags into one large one so they're easy to find.) This is a nice ice pack that will help soreness post-birth. You can also use the soothing herbal mix from above instead of plain comfrey.
Arnica pellets -- The afterpains can be killer for a few days, and they're worse with each baby. Keep some arnica pellets on hand and take them every 3 - 4 hours for the first few days to take the edge off.
Massage oil -- Sometimes, weird things happen in birth. Maybe the baby was positioned oddly, or posterior. You may have sore muscles. (My second baby was ROA, which means his back was against my right side, and somehow with the position he was in and the way I pushed, my muscles in my left hip hurt so badly for weeks. That was the worst part of recovery.) This massage oil will help soothe those sore muscles and reduce any pain you have.
Coconut water -- You may become dehydrated if you were in labor a long time and forgot to drink much, or if you were nauseous and didn't want to drink. Coconut water can replace electrolytes in your body. If you don't really like it (I wasn't a huge fan), mix it with some tea or juice, a flavor you prefer. Herbal tea is a great option too, by itself or mixed with coconut water.
Nourishing meals -- Eat a very nutrient-dense diet, filled with eggs, grass-fed butter, milk and beef, bone broths, real sourdough bread, and more. Eat constantly, as much as you want. Do not worry a bit about weight loss; that will come. Low-calorie and low-fat diets are not the way to accomplish that anyway.
Chamomile, Catnip, or Skullcap -- If you are struggling to get rest in the early weeks (and not because your baby is waking you -- some women experience hormonal fluctuations that lead to insomnia), try one of the herbs listed in tea form. They're very, very mild sedatives that can help you relax enough to sleep. Insomnia can also be due to magnesium deficiency, in which case you might want to look into a transdermal magnesium oil spray.
Placenta Pills -- Did I just freak out any of you? Some midwives or doulas will encapsulate your placenta for you. They'll rinse it, dehydrate it, powder it, and put it in capsules. These tend to really smooth out hormones and help prevent postpartum depression, especially for women who are prone to it. Some women think that eating the placenta raw (possibly by mixing it into a smoothie) is an even better idea, but I don't think I (or many of you) could handle that. Capsules are just fine. Bonus? If you don't need them all, you can save them until menopause and they can ease your symptoms then, too!
Stephanie's note: Placenta encapsulation is a bit more controversial, with lots of different views surrounding it, particularly for Christians. Personally, I'm not sure what I think about it yet, though I've heard many benefits, and also some very valid arguments against it. I'd prefer for this post to not become a debate on the use of the placenta, but it's just something to consider. :)
Within several weeks (don't push it!), you'll bounce back and feel much more like your normal self. Taking extra time to rest and relax and letting others help you while you're recovering is a great way to ensure that you remain healthy through this huge physical time in your life.