Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Herbal preparations for Labor and Postpartum

Avery and I had some special time today. After days of sporadic researching here and there, in books and on blogs, I finally summed up the effort to gather together random jars of herbs, oils, tinctures, essential oils, remedies and spices to prepare a basket full of herbal preparations for my labor and post part time. 

I tend to be a minimalist in some ways. I feel like if our bodies are strong and in shape and we are well nourished with a healthy diet, we women are made and intended to give birth without intervention. My births with my two children were night and day in many ways, but I gave birth to each of them with out intervention. However, with Noah, who was my first, two weeks late and eight and a half pounds, I did tear and need stitches in three places. As a result from the long labor I was pretty beat up and I practically crawled around my house for a couple weeks. Avery was two weeks early, seven and a half pounds and I do not think her labor could be any smoother. Again, I did have a  small tear, but did not need stitches. I distinctly remember bouncing around the house sweeping a few hours after I gave birth to her, while she and Dustin slept together peacefully.

With both of these births I used some herbs. I did not use any essential oils or homeopathic remedies as at that time it didn't even occur to me. After midwifing for dairy goats for seven years, I have begun to look at birth a little differently.  Some preparedness such as having your supplies gathered and prepped and knowing what you are going to do with them, can make for a more soothing peaceful labor, as well as decreasing discomfort afterwards. 

Today we made two tea blends for myself. One was simple with wild red raspberry leaf and a little dried fruit tea blend to make it taste more flavorful. Red Raspberry leaf is a uterine toner and helps loosen the area before birth. It is recommended to drink raspberry tea throughout birth in addition to drinking it while in labor and right after labor and during post-partum time. I did not drink much of it with either of my first two pregnancies but am doing better this time around. I plan on drinking a cup early in labor as well as right after and in the following days. 

Next we made another herbal tea that also had about 2pt Raspberry leaf, but also had 1 pt Alfalfa (from our garden) and 1ptNettles (from our nettle patch) I also added in 1/2 pt chamomile (garden) and a little bit of dried fruit tea mix. I thought that I can drink this easier if it is all premixed. It is for times when I don't just want the results of the Raspberry. The chamomile is calming. The Alfalfa and Nettles are high in nutrients, calcium, vitamin K and can prevent jaundice in newborns by drinking during pregnancy. I made up nettle tea bags early in pregnancy and I've been putting raspberry leaf into a diffuser regularly. Today we (Avery) filled press and seal tea bags with the herbs and I ironed them closed. Much easier now for D or the midwives to make me tea.

Avery filling a jar with baby's first bath herbs; Wild Rose petals, lavender, German Chamomile) (Calendula would be nice too, but I didn't have any dried)

Then we made two bath mixes. One for the baby's first bath, ingredients above. The other was a perineum soak blend for an after labor bath for myself. After looking at several recipes, I just pulled out what I had, which were; yarrow leaf and flower, plantain leaf and red raspberry leaf; all harvested and dried from our land this summer in addition to a smaller amount of chamomile from the garden and lavender from the store. Comfrey and calendula are two of the other ingredients most often called for. I had huge bundle of comfrey stored to feed to the chickens but it didn't look worth of a bath. I had harvested and grated root to make an infused oil. And I have fresh root in the fridge which is sprouting, so I thought I might as well stick it into a big pot of soil and maybe I'll have fresh leaf in a week or two - cause that stuff grows like a weed! As far as calendula, I have fresh infused oil and tincture, but didn't save any dried flowers. So, I may add a little tincture to the bath. 

Comfrey is an amazing healer, plantain is great for relieving itching, burning and general irritation. I am guessing that the red raspberry leaf is good for getting up into any nooks and crannies and maybe can tone externally as well as internally. Yarrow is an antiseptic that prevents infection. Chamomile and Lavender are both soothing, calming herbs. The Calendula is soothing and promotes healing.

My herbal guides recommended pouring two quarts of boiling water over two cups of dried herbal blend to steep for twenty minutes or longer. Then strain herbs and add infused water to bath. Another great thing to do ahead of time is to soak cloth or disposable menstrual pads in tea and freeze. Then pull out and apply after labor. Amazingly enough I did this before my birth with Noah and it is the one thing I did that stands out, now, ten years later, that was just amazing. I was so thankful that I did this. You can also put the infusion into a Peri or spray bottle and apply to bottom area regularly to sooth. You can also add lavender essential oil - just a few drops, and, or St John's wort tincture to the infusion for extra pain relief.

Today, we only had enough perineum soak herbs for one bath. So I put the herbs into a half gallon jar so the midwives can just pour the water right into that jar for steeping. Since I didn't have extra for soaking pads or for a peri bottle, we made a peri solution in a 2 oz. spray bottle with 5 drops Lavender essential oil and 10 drops St. John's wort Tincture. I have the tincture and essential oil in my birth basket, so I can make more easily. I have heard that witch hazel is also very soothing but this will be my first try. I have had amazing results with St John's Wort as a topical pain reliever, but for some reason it had never occurred to me to use it on myself. So, I am excited to try it.

I just recently heard about postpartum belly binding, in which you wrap up your belly for support and to speed healing. Sometimes "hot" herbal pastes are applied directly to the belly before being wrapped. These herbal pastes increase circulation and blood flow to the area, thereby toning and healing and restoring your tummy and your inards to their rightful places more quickly. I think this subject may be deserving of it's own post. So I will just say that I followed a recipe for the dried herbs and included those in my basket as my midwives have offered to bind my belly after birth if I should be inclined - and I think it sounds pretty nice; warming herbs and support and comfort right after losing my little furnace and feeling all empty and mushy inside.

Here are the main ingredients and preparations I thought I should have all in one place. I never took Arnica with my first two births, but it has become an indispensable part of our home remedy kit and I dole it out to anyone else with any bruising that needs soothed. I plan to take it right after birth, and probably three times a day for my first day or two after labor. My pregnancy tinctures are at the far right. I am trying to take red raspberry leaf tincture and Partridge berry tincture twice a day to prepare my body for labor - I'm a little hit or miss. 

So without buying anything specifically for this purpose, here is what I've come up with so far:

1. Herbal teas for before, during and after labor. (Red raspberry leaf alone and mixed with nettles, alfalfa and chamomile)

2. Herbal bath mixes. (Yarrow, plantain, red raspberry, lavender and chamomile for me - possibly add comfrey and calendula if it works out) (rose petals, chamomile and lavender for me and baby as a special treat - day or two after)

3. Perineum spray for spray bottle. Witch hazel with 5 d. Lavender essential oil and 10 d. St. John's wort Tincture.

4. Arnica homeopathic remedy for after birth swelling and bruising, to take right after labor and three times a day while feeling bruised. 

5. Other ingredients in case I want to add to baths, perineum bottle or gently massage onto sore areas include; lavender essential oil, St. John's wort tincture and oil, Yarrow tincture and oil, Calendula tincture and oil.

6. Belly binding paste made up of "hot spices/herbs" Equal parts; turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom. Add to two Tb. of herbal mix, 2-4 TB warm sesame or coconut oil and a little less than a tsp. of fresh lime juice. Apply to belly, cover with cloth and bind.

And it's all in one place. Doesn't that feel good!

There may be a few items I'm adding to my birth kit. I have been researching Helichrysum and Frankincense essential oils off and on for some time, always discouraged from buying them by their high cost. However, the more I read about them, the more I feel I have to have them. I have been trying to budget for more essential oils to add to my kit for six months now, without much luck. But there is a chance that we might be about to make the final splurge and if so I'll try and share my usage of them.

What I have heard in regards to birth and labor, is that Frankincense is a wonderful topical pain reliever and that a drop or two can be rubbed directly onto the skin - even on sensitive skin - unlike many essential oils which should be diluted. The combination of Frankincense and Lavender can be used on hot wet rags, applied to the tummy or anywhere that aches, during labor, after labor to ease after birth pains etc. 

Helichrysum is one of the best wound healers, healing muscle tears and any injuries. It is often added to perineum rinses, baths and frozen pads to relieve sore places. 

Peppermint essential oil also comes up as an oil to have on hand for birth, but as it can affect breathing in newborns, I don't feel the need to even mess with it. However, I have read that if you have a hard time peeing, to add a drop to the toilet and it is suppose to help with that.

I was speaking with a friend today who is also expecting her third. We both feel somewhat unprepared for the after birth pains. I think that if I am able to get the Frankincense essential oil - that might help. I have also read about some herbal blends that can help, two of the ingredients being Motherwort and Crampbark (I know it as high bush cranberry bark) which I have around here somewhere and may try to find should my after birth pains really bother me.

Avery wanted to take my picture the other day. So here I am at 36 weeks, in my normal house away; no bra, hair not combed etc.

If anyone has any more tips for using herbs, essential oils or homeopathic remedies, I'd love to hear them.

Here are some posts I came across over my last few days of research that I found helpful. Enjoy!

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