Postpartum is the time period after giving birth. It is a natural time the body needs to recover from pregnancy and delivery. There are three distinct phases of postpartum.
1) EARLY POSTPARTUM – Uterine Cleanse Phase (0-1 Month)
Early postpartum is from birth until 30 days. During this phase the uterus clears out any leftover pregnancy matter and fluids and heals up the walls of the uterus. Replenishing lost fluids, blood and energy is vital as soon as possible after giving birth and throughout this entire phase or else breastmilk will not get a strong start. Rest is necessary for the uterus to perform necessary tasks during this phase.
2) MIDDLE POSTPARTUM – Uterine Strengthening Phase (1-12 Months)
Middle postpartum is from one to twelve months after giving birth. During this phase the body continues to replenish from lost fluids, blood and energy and, if the uterus received a full cleanse during phase 1, starts to regain its strength.
3) LATE POSTPARTUM – Uterine Circulation Phase (13-24 Months)
Late postpartum is from thirteen to twenty four months after giving birth. During this phase the body focuses on circulation and boosting energy.
SIGNS OF INCOMPLETE POSTPARTUM RECOVERY
-Heavy bleeding . (May be associated with Uterine Fatigue and/or Uterine Stagnation).
-Yellow lochia . (May be associated with Excess Heat).
-Lochia extended past 30 days . (May be associated with Uterine Stagnation or Uterine Fatigue.)
-Early menstrual return. (May be associated with Uterine Fatigue) .
-Late menstrual return. (May be associated with Blood Deficiency and/or Uterine Stagnation) .
-Unhealthy menstrual return. (May be associated with Uterine Stagnation) .
-Low breastmilk. (May be associated with Blood Deficiency and Uterine Stagnation) .
-Hair loss. (May be associated with Blood Deficiency) .
-Aching teeth. (May be associated with Blood Deficiency) .
-Depression / Emotional Overwhelm / Disconnect (May be associated with Blood Deficiency) .
Medical treatments may include:
-Monitoring and issuing antidepressants for depression
-Six week check-up to determine if it’s okay to return to sex and issue birth control
If extended lochia, heavy bleeding, postpartum contractions and other issues arise, the doctor may insert an IUD or other birth control (though it’s not immediately clear how birth control is a solution for these signs of an incomplete uterine cleanse).
There do not seem to be any measures in place to check for prolapse or fractures or to help resolve them.
In Traditional Asian Medicine, Postpartum is seen as the second Golden Opportunity in life – a chance to enhance one’s health and longevity. It is a time to care for and nourish the body to the utmost extent possible. Postpartum mothers receive special herbs, treatments and protection from outside sickness until baby is at least one year old.
-7 Times a Woman
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Steam appears to help clear out leftover pregnancy matter which may reduce risk of infection, help make the uterus go back down to size faster, help the other organs return to their normal position and function. Additionally, the introduction of steam helps with circulation which disperses water retention and swelling of the skin. For steam users this has reported not only in pain reduction and seeing the vulva return back to its shape in record time, but also, getting into their pre-pregnancy clothes faster. Steam also might help to clean birth injuries and sutures preventing them from infection and helping to prevent the formulation of scar tissue.
With all the benefits that postpartum steam users report, there is no question that postpartum steaming is used universally all over the world. Postpartum steam use spans all cultures worldwide. Though the domination of western medical care does not use steaming (and therefore it has not been a standard treatment for postpartum care for many years), a great effort should be made for all birthworkers and nurses to receive adequate training in steam therapy to re-introduce it into wide-scale care as soon as possible.
Steam therapy can also be used in several first aid situations during labor and delivery and the immediate postpartum – stalled labor, retained placenta, urine retention, pre-eclampsia and general pain relief and relaxation.
WHAT TO EXPECT
1) In early postpartum, many steam users feel immediate relief that improves with each steam session. It is common to have discharge after steaming (lochia, mucus, clots, bleeding). If someone has not done any postpartum steaming and their menstruation has not returned yet, it is also often for them to have post-steam discharge. Depending on the discharge, steaming must sometimes stop for a day or two until it is resumed.
2) In the middle postpartum steaming can be used to help painless return to intimacy, softening scar tissue, resolving bleeding issues, fending off early menstrual return, resolving extended lochia, resolving prolapse, hemorrhoids and urinary incontincence; and support with nursing. This is also when cesarean deliverers start steaming. Using the wrong herbs during this time might result in an early menstrual return.
3) In the late postpartum steaming can be used to help with hormonal balance, healthy menstrual cycle returns, reducing heavy/painful menstruation and late menstrual return.
STEAM THERAPIST RECOMMENDATION
A trained steam therapist should be part of every birth team and available to a birthing client whether in a hospital or homebirth setting. The most practical way to make this happen is to have someone on the birth team (midwife, doula, nurse, doctor, partner, family member) trained in steam therapy for labor and postpartum. If no one on the birth team is trained, a steam therapist should be brought in to be a part of the birth team.
Postpartum steaming is not a do-it-yourself home self-care treatment, nor is it something that can be learned through youtube turtorials or the Steamy Chick userguide. Peristeam Hydrotherapists go through extensive training and work with their client from 36 weeks pregnancy until two years postpartum adapting the steam plan and herbs according to the many changing needs during this time.
To reduce chance of birth injury and complications and to ensure a complete postpartum recovery, a steam client and practitioner should work together starting the last month of pregnancy on until two years postpartum. This starts off with weekly consultations during the end of pregnancy which switches to daily consultations after 40 weeks and during the early postpartum. After 30 days postpartum monthly visits should continue until two years postpartum.