Healing after the birth – the 4th trimester
We talk a lot about pregnancy care, pregnancy yoga, pregnancy massage, antenatal classes and birth preparation. But nothing really prepares you for birth and comes beyond pregnancy.
Really the postpartum period should be highlighted a lot more. We should pay much more attention to this very special time. It’s a sacred junction. And according to Ayurveda, all junctures can be vulnerable but also carry great power. What happens in the 4th trimester or our immediate postnatal period can have an immense impact on our health long after our children have grown.
Once our baby/babies and placenta are born the womb is left empty. What was growing for 40 weeks inside our body and been part of our being are now another unit (even if we are still interdependent and our babies rely on us).
The doshas after birth according to ayurveda
In Ayurveda having this increased space in our pelvic and abdominal area means our Vata dosha is increased. This is a natural part of the postpartum period. But it is also extremely important to manage it. Vata dosha consists of the Space and Wind/Air elements. The qualities of Vata include light, dry, rough, clear, active, cold and mobile. Imbalanced Vata can manifest as insomnia, anxiety, overwhelm, worry, loss of appetite, digestive issues and dryness of the skin and mucous membranes.
Vata dosha is also associated with the pelvic region. In fact, it is the downward energy called Apana Vayu (Vayu = wind) that’s responsible for childbirth. But it is also easy to mess up our reproductive system and our menstrual cycle if Vata dosha is out of whack.
Long term increase of Vata can also be associated with joint issues, loss of bone density, general pain and even Alzheimers.
For a long term health strategy we need to manage Vata especially as it spikes after birth.
So how do we manage the postnatal recovery and 4th trimester according to Ayurveda?
To reduce Vata dosha we implement the opposite and decrease the qualities that are already too high.
- Rest. Vata likes movement. Movement of the body and of the mind. Resting, and relaxation is important to recover after pregnancy and birth. Just be. Rest and recover. Of course, gentle movement is absolutely fine. But allow it to be mindful and with awareness. You can have a look at these pelvic floor practises here for some inspiration.
- Easy to digest meals. Vata can be managed with food that are easy to digest. These foods are warm, cooked and simple such as Kitcheri (see recipe here), soups and casseroles. Add warming spices such as ginger, cumin, asoefodida and coriander. You can also enjoy warming digestive teas such as ginger tea or fennel tea.
- Oil up. Ideally, someone would massage you with warm oil every day for the 40 days of your 4th trimester. This rarely happens but you can do it yourself too. Warm up some sesame oil (sesame is warming and helps to reduce Vata) and massage your body. If you can’t do the full body just apply to your abdomen, and massage your feet and hands. You can also enjoy a head massage. Leave the oil on for a little while and then have a warm shower or bath.
- Kegel’s. Or yoni mudra. We generally don’t exercise bruised muscles so start gently. Just letting your body breathe you will connect to your pelvic floor. As you start to exaggerate the pelvic floor lifts make sure you lift in and up. And reconnect with different parts of your pelvic floor. I have plenty of resources on the pelvic floor on my blog posts, here are a few FREE videos to get you started and also definitely have a look at the Sacred Pelvis online course. Connecting with your roots gets you grounded again and starts reducing the sense of excess “space” in your womb.
There is a reason why we are now referring to the postpartum period as the 4th trimester or the sacred window. It’s is part of your pregnancy and most certainly needs plenty of care, compassion and love.
For more information about massage and treatments have a look here. Learn about the Sacred Pelvis online course here and browse through the blog to learn more about the pelvic floor.