All around the world there are (or used to be) traditional practices to help a new mother’s body heal after birth.
Regardless of the continent, these traditions usually include some massage and wrapping rituals, as well as binding the belly and pelvis, and keeping the mother warm.
When you think about the tremendous changes a mother’s body undergoes, it makes so much sense! During pregnancy, the uterus grows from the size of a pear to that of a watermelon, the pelvis tilts forward and becomes wider, the ribs open, the spine curves increase, the abdominal organs get pushed up etc. To give birth, the mother’s body opens up on a physical and energetic level. After birth, these changes need to happen in reverse, whilst the body also undergoes the beginning of lactation.
It seems crazy that we no longer have processes in place to support these changes, or at the very least, some kind of physical examination to make sure everything has returned to a healthy place. At the 6 weeks doctor “check” in the UK, there is no overall physical examination of the mother.
With no checkup, and no sense of what is normal, we have a perfect storm of issues not being treated. The statistics are very telling: 1 in 3 new mothers experience urinary incontinence at 3 months postpartum and nearly one in 2 still has diastasis recti at 6 months postpartum. Research shows that it takes on average 8-10 years post birth for women to seek help for such issues.
Yet, during the first 4-6 weeks postpartum, when the body is still plastic and resetting itself post birth, there is a unique opportunity for healing.
Traditional massages and rituals, such as closing the bones, understand this need and the window of opportunity, and are designed to “close” a new mother physically, emotionally and energetically, after the widening and opening of pregnancy and birth. Because the needs of new mothers are the same regardless of where they are from, it makes sense all cultures have similar processes to support postpartum healing. This article from Innate traditions provides a beautiful overview of the topic.
As no such treatment is available as standard within the health system, it makes sense to seek bodywork and healing from people who can provide it.
What kind of postnatal bodywork can you have?
- Closing the bones massage
- Postnatal recovery massage
- Specialist therapists such as massage therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, and pelvic physiotherapists (ask for local recommendations)
- Wrapping your belly and hips
When can you have postnatal bodywork?
As soon as possible during the first 6-8 weeks postpartum or as soon as you are ready. In traditional wisdom, there is a window of healing opportunity and plasticity during this time when the body is designed to heal faster. The strange “don’t do anything before you’ve had your 6 weeks check” isn’t based on any evidence. Moreover, it makes no sense because the 6 weeks check doesn’t include a physical examination. Having massaged many new mothers, some as soon as 24h post birth, I can attest that this is when the bodywork is the most effective to speed up healing.
What can you do for yourself?
- Use the 4 pillars of postnatal recovery (Social support, rest, food and bodywork) to write a postnatal recovery plan (you can download a free template here) to include bodywork. You can ask for gifts vouchers towards postnatal bodywork.
- Wrap your belly and hips. I wrote a blog about it which includes tutorials.
- Keep warm (like a convalescent person would: wrap up, and consume warming foods and drinks)
What can you do for new mothers?
- If you know someone who is pregnant or recently had a baby, it would be a wonderful gift to give them a voucher towards such a treatment.