22 Natural Things You Can Do to Help Your Postpartum Healing
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my struggle with postpartum anxiety and panic attacks following the birth of my daughter. Since publishing that, I’ve received over a dozen private messages and emails from sweet mamas sharing about their past and present struggles with PPA (postpartum anxiety) or PPD (postpartum depression). Discussion and support for struggling mothers is needed but often we don’t know what resources are available to us OR don’t take the initiative to utilize them.
I put so much preparation into my natural birth plan. I spent hours choosing a doula, attending classes, watched YouTube videos about pushing your baby out by exhaling so you won’t tear (it didn’t work…) but I didn’t give my postpartum health much consideration. I think there is a disconnect here. Birth lasts a few hours to a few days in someones life but the postpartum period lasts one year.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not a medical professional, nor do I presume to speak into your specific situation. But I do think there are some natural things we can do in order to heal our bodies after giving birth. My goal here is to share the practical things that helped me during that time and things that I wish I’d known beforehand.
Let me add to that. Get therapy AND write a contract with yourself.
“What? What does she mean?”
This may seem Type A or overly official to some readers but hear me out: I put off scheduling a therapy appointment because the task of choosing a location and scheduling an appointment seemed insurmountable.
Even after my husband encouraged me to go, I told him, “I’m getting better on my own. I don’t need to talk to a stranger about my feelings. I just need my hormones to go back to normal.”
But looking back therapy would have helped me process, released me of the shame I felt and validated my very real struggle. So, next time, I’m going to write a contract with myself long before the baby arrives to make myself go to therapy. My contract will describe all the signs of PPA or PPD and dictate that if I am experiencing these signs, for example, after three weeks, then my spouse will schedule an appointment with my pre-picked therapist.
Only allow people to visit who understand your very real struggle
No, you are not isolating yourself or putting up walls. You are giving yourself the healing opportunity to sit with people who understand. People who will listen and not demand answers. Gracious and healing people.
This is not a judgement on others. Not all personality types are gifted with bedside manner—and that’s okay! Put these people on hold, and invite them to come see you and your new baby when you are feeling a little more like yourself.
Get a support system
Surround yourself with that inner circle that you trust to share your disappointments, worries, frustrations and all the wonder, joy and funny stuff too!
Just having a listening ear was cathartic to me. It’s helped me tremendously to talk to a friend who also had struggled with anxiety in the past and understood the feelings intimately.
Drink lots of fluids
Sister, when your milk comes in, you could easily win a drinking contest with a camel.
Having in 2-3 water bottles in stations around the house is SO great.
My husband became my “water boy” and ran around filling up my glasses.
Also, having some kind of electrolyte drink is a must (I preferred coconut water which contains natural sugars and electrolytes).
Ask for help
We had meals, cleaning and laundry all taken care of by family and friends for the first two weeks when my anxiety was at its worst. Because my husband owns his own company, he had to go back to work the week after our daughter was born so this was essential to our sanity.
Communicating my needs was humbling at first but I quickly got over that when I realized I mentally and physically couldn’t do it all. It made me more attuned to the needs of my friends who were/are soon to have babies.
You need your house cleaned? A meal? Girl, I got you!
Natural therapies to help with anxiety
I’m sure you can find a more comprehensive list somewhere on the internet but these are the things that helped me.
Diffusing and massaging therapy-grade lavender essential oils. These helped me feel centered as I focused on calm breathing.
Breathing exercises — such as the one in this video
Play soft music in the background
Epsom salt bath (contains magnesium which is an anti-stress mineral)
Avoiding sugar, chocolate, and all forms of caffeine—I definitely noticed a spike in my anxiety after consuming even small amounts of these stimulants.
Yoga stretches to relieve stress - obviously once your physically healed and not a minute before!
6. Getting enough sleep
Being deprived of sleep for 24 hrs or longer is has been shown in studies to cause mental and physical distress to humans. But the old adage, “Sleep when your baby sleeps” didn’t help me because my brain was too anxious to shut down. But if you’re able to—sleep! Dishes and text messages can wait.
8. Scriptures that helped me
9. Unplugging from social media
Recently, a friend of mine made the observation that the new trend (thanks to Mari Kondo) is to declutter our houses in order to feel better mentally. But often we still keep that clutter in our heads with the unending need to keep scrolling through our social feed. “Social media is mind clutter!” she said.
I completely agree.
The LAST thing an un-showered, breastfeeding, exhausted new mama needs when she’s struggling emotionally, is to scroll through Instagram and see picture-after-picture of her internet friends having the time of their liiiiiiiiives and living out their dreeeeeaaams!
But isn’t that envy? Shouldn’t we be happy for our friends?
Of course we should! But let’s be honest. Social media can breed unhealthy comparison. Whether consciously or subconsciously, our brains soak up the message of what we need to do and look like in order to be successful, noticed, and valued. The glossy photos posted are best-foot forward images picked from a reel of 43 others that didn’t make the cut. The captions are thoughtfully crafted.
So if you’re struggle with PPA or PPD, give your heart a break, mama. Don’t feed the lies and clutter that your overtired brain is already battling. Take this time to embrace things that feed your soul like a cup of tea on the patio, a nap, a phone call with a friend, or a good book.
10. Not dwelling on anxious thoughts
Although the basis of my anxiety stemmed from hormone imbalance, not dwelling on anxious or fear based thoughts helped. When one popped into my head, I would get up and distract myself with music, listening to a podcast or audiobook, or call someone. Not sitting and letting my mind go down a fearful path helped my happiness.
11. Writing a list
When I laid down in bed at night a list of to dos began to flood my mind: schedule the pediatrician appointment, buy toilet paper, reply to that email and I would worry so much that I would forget that I had a hard time sleeping. Taking a notebook and writing down all the noise in my head, helped me to surrender all of it until morning.
12. Find the humor in the situation
Our daughter liked to sleep on her back with her hands folded across her tummy, her double chin and sleeping face puckered out in a serious expression. My husband called this look “Gangster Baby” and he used a comical, Godfather-ish voice to complete the persona. It was so funny to me that one time I started peeing my pants.
“Oh no! I’m peeing!” I announced through fits of laughter, which made us laugh even harder, which made me pee even more.
I firmly believe that the ability to laugh at ourselves tripping through life, makes the days lighter and the hard things easier. Sometimes the most worn out sayings are the truest:
“Laughter is the best medicine.”
I hope that some of these tips are helpful to you. If there’s anything you found that helped you postpartum, please share it in the comments below!